Month: May 2016

How to build a ukulele from scratch


The folks at Dremel have been featuring different makers, and this month they asked me to be their Dremel Maker. I was happy to do it because I’ve been using a Dremel Moto-Tool since I was 12.

I participated in a Facebook Q&A, offered some tips on Twitter, and made a ukulele from scratch. To make it, referred to the free plans for the acoustic travel uke, available from Circuits and Strings. Here are my build notes. This could be a fun family project.


As much as possible, I like to use materials I already have at home. For the neck, I used a piece of wood that was destined for the recycling bin. I’m glad I didn’t toss it out. I think it is pine, but I’m not sure. It’s 1.5 inches wide, .075 inches high, and two feet long. I cut the end as shown, and glued another cut piece to same end, using wood glue. I clamped it and let it set while I went to work on the rest of the uke.

I bought a 6-pack of 6 x 12 x 0.125 inch plywood on Amazon for $11. I used it for the body of the guitar and the fretboard. How did I know how to space the frets? I just held another uke against the new fretboard and marked the spacing with a pencil. If you don’t have a uke on hand, here’s a fret spacing calculator. Using a square – like the one shown – against a piece of wood’s factory edge is a good way to ensure parallel and perpendicular lines.

fretsYou can see that I used square toothpicks for frets. They work great, and are easier than fret wire. I removed the protruding ends with nail clippers and rounded them with my Moto-Tool.


Here’s a photo of the freshly glued frets and how I clamped them for drying.


The body is made from the same craft plywood. At first I tried to make a square body but then I realized it would be too short for the bridge. This was one of many mistakes I made along the way. I ended up making a rectangular body. The cut-out on the left is for the neck.


When gluing the body together, I used a bunch of scrap pieces of wood with right angles for bracing.


Instead of regular tuners, I used zither tuning pegs. C.B Gitty sells a 4-pack for $4.19. (Don’t forget to buy a tuning key!)


Here’s a block of wood glued to the inside of the body for the zither pegs to fit into.


Back to the neck: I used a rasp to quickly round the edges of the neck, followed by sandpaper. I made a bridge with a few scrap pieces of plywood glued together and shaped it with the …read more

Fun with FriXion pens


Last year my friends and I formed a club for (as Cory puts it) “people who aren’t good at magic tricks.” (Actually, Cory, John Edgar Park, and I are the only ones in the group who aren’t good at magic tricks. The others are pretty accomplished magicians and passed the audition to become members of the Magic Castle.)

At our last meeting Michael Borys introduced me to the FriXion pen. It’s an erasable pen made by Pilot. It comes with a small eraser, but you can buy a large eraser, which is a smooth brick of plastic. When you rub a mark made with the pen, the friction creates heat to erase the mark. The cool thing (or bug, depending on your use case) is that the writing will vanish instantly when you apply heat. It’s a heat-activated disappearing ink. I read that if you apply ice to the erased writing, the writing will reappear (it will be faded, however).

Amazon sells a 3-pack of the FrXion pen for $4, and a 4-pack of erasers for $6.

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Beautiful Birds – Fly from A to Z with dozens of feathered friends


See sample pages from this book at Wink.

Beautiful Birds

by Jean Roussen (author) and Emmanuel Walker (illustrator)

Flying Eye Books

2015, 56 pages, 8.9 x 12.2 x 0.4 inches

$17 Buy a copy on Amazon

In Beautiful Birds, author Jean Roussen and illustrator Emmanuel Walker fly through the alphabet with dozens of feathered friends. It begins, of course, with “A is for albatross, the admiral of the skies,” and progresses all the way to “Z is for zos-ter-o-pi-dae…” with details about all kinds of avians in between. The writing brims with clever rhymes and colorful words (ogling orbs, polychrome quills) making it delightful to read out loud. If I had to guess, I’d say Roussen is a fan of E.B. White’s idea that “children are game for anything… They love words that give them a hard time, provided they are in a context that absorbs their attention.”

Walker’s vibrant illustrations give kids all the context they need. His graphic, full-bleed drawings feel like those of mid-century masters Saul Bass and Charlie Harper. As an added bonus, the book’s design is also gorgeous. It’s bound in a neon salmon linen, with patterned endpapers to match. The neon color can be found on almost every page in varying doses, giving the optical effect of spying a ruffle of feathers in the wild.

– Sara Distin at Tinybob

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Nab the AtmosRX Combo Vaporizer Bundle - now 73% off

Vaping continues to become increasingly popular, meaning there is a growing selection of premium vaping products on the market. Here’s one that should get your attention: the AtmosRX Combo Vaporizer Bundle.

This top-notch bundle includes the Rx Dry Herb Vaporizer, plus a bundle of accessories and flavors. Grab it now: it’s currently 73% off in the Boing Boing Store.

The Atmos Rx, which has garnered strong positive reviews, is a pen-style vaporizer that burns both waxes and herbs, offering a variety of options not often found in a portable pen.

The durable, compact Rx’s ample ceramic heating chamber fires up within 10 seconds and produces huge vapor clouds, allowing you to customize your vaping experience.

In case you’re already a fan of e-liquids, no worries: you’ll also get an e-liquid adapter for your Rx and two e-liquid flavors to try as well.

Find out why everyone’s jumping on the vaping train with the AtmosRx Combo Vaporizer Bundle, now just $59.99, while the deal lasts.

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Vaccine could prevent Alzheimer's plaque from building up

Image: Alvin Gogineni, Genentech

Researchers are starting to think that Alzheimer’s disease could be caused by microbial infections that cause plaque to form in the brain. This opens the possibility for a vaccination against Alzheimer’s.

Support for the immune defence idea comes from work by Jacobus Jansen of Maastricht University in the Netherlands. Using MRI brain scans, his team has found that people in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease have more permeable blood-brain barriers, suggesting that they may have developed the disease because their brains were more vulnerable to attack. “The microbe hypothesis seems plausible,” says Jansen.

If infectious agents are kicking off the formation of plaques, then vaccines could head them off. “You could vaccinate against those pathogens, and potentially prevent this problem arising later in life,” says Moir.

If many microbes are involved, immunising against them all will be hard, says Jansen. “But if the frequency of certain pathogens is quite high, there might be a possibility.”

In the meantime, don’t get a brain infection.

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How to outguess multiple choice tests

Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 10.53.28 AM

Rock Breaks Scissors, by William Poundstone, is a “practical Guide to outguessing and outwitting almost everybody.” Here are some some strategies for multiple choice tests and Rock, Paper, Scissors.

Multiple Choice Strategy:

1) Pick B if you have to guess on 4 options

2) Pick E if you have to guess on 5 options

3) Don’t pick answers with Always, Never, None, or All

4) Pick answers such as “All of the above”

Rock Paper Scissors Strategy:

1) Pick Paper when against a man

2) Pick Scissors when against a woman

3) When you beat them, switch to what hand would beat the hand you played

4) When you lose, stick with your current hand

5) When they play two of the same hands in a row, expect a different hand the next throw and account for it

6) Tell them you’re going to throw something, then ACTUALLY throw it

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Oregon militia leaders complain about no Internet in jail cell

Clockwise from top left: Ryan Bundy, Ammon Bundy, Brian Cavalier, Jon Tizheimer, Peter Santilli, Shawna Cox, Ryan Payne and Joseph O'Shaughnessy

Ammon Bundy, the jailed leader of the armed militia that took over a federal wildlife reserve in Oregon last January, says he needs Internet access. His brother Ryan, also in jail, is upset that he can’t bear arms while he is in jail awaiting trial.

“My right to live is being violated,” defendant Ryan Bundy wrote. “All of my First Amendment rights are being violated…I am not allowed to see my brother and move about….This violates my freedom of assembly…My Second Amendment rights are being violated. I never waived that right.”

No news on whether the brothers asked for people to send snacks.


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TSA's Instagram features bizarre items found at checkpoints

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The TSA Instagram account is such a trove of high weirdness that I am now thinking of the TSA as a publicly-funded arts organization that I contribute to with taxes and time spent in line as it scans travelers for items to add to this gallery.

CA Governor Jerry Brown endorses Clinton in advance of June 7th primary


California Governor Jerry Brown today announced that he is endorsing Hillary Clinton for President of the United States. Brown, known for his 1992 populist run for the presidency, offers Clinton’s competitor Bernie Sanders high praise, but feels Clinton is best positioned to end the national nightmare that is Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.


On Tuesday, June 7, I have decided to cast my vote for Hillary Clinton because I believe this is the only path forward to win the presidency and stop the dangerous candidacy of Donald Trump.

I have closely watched the primaries and am deeply impressed with how well Bernie Sanders has done. He has driven home the message that the top one percent has unfairly captured way too much of America’s wealth, leaving the majority of people far behind. In 1992, I attempted a similar campaign.

For her part, Hillary Clinton has convincingly made the case that she knows how to get things done and has the tenacity and skill to advance the Democratic agenda. Voters have responded by giving her approximately 3 million more votes – and hundreds more delegates – than Sanders. If Clinton were to win only 10 percent of the remaining delegates – wildly improbable – she would still exceed the number needed for the nomination. In other words, Clinton’s lead is insurmountable and Democrats have shown – by millions of votes – that they want her as their nominee.

But there is more at stake than mere numbers. The Republican nominee, Donald Trump, has called climate change a “hoax” and said he will tear up the Paris Climate Agreement. He has promised to deport millions of immigrants and ominously suggested that other countries may need the nuclear bomb. He has also pledged to pack the Supreme Court with only those who please the extreme right.

The stakes couldn’t be higher. Our country faces an existential threat from climate change and the spread of nuclear weapons. A new cold war is on the horizon. This is no time for Democrats to keep fighting each other. The general election has already begun. Hillary Clinton, with her long experience, especially as Secretary of State, has a firm grasp of the issues and will be prepared to lead our country on day one.

Next January, I want to be sure that it is Hillary Clinton who takes the oath of office, not Donald Trump.

With respect,

Jerry Brown

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"Skin gun" sprays patient's own stem cells on wounds to speed healing


The SkinGun, announced today, was developed by RenovaCare to spray autologous (self-donated) stem cells on patients with chronic wounds and burns.

For patients suffering severe burns and other wounds, the prospect of a quick-healing, gentle spray containing their own stem cells will be a promising alternative to conventional skin graft surgery, which can be painful, prone to complications, and slow-to-heal. Based on preliminary case studies, CellMist System patients can be treated within 90 minutes of arriving in an emergency room; a patient’s stem cells are isolated, processed, and sprayed on to wound sites for rapid healing.

Preliminary investigational use in Europe and the United States indicate the potential efficacy and safety of RenovaCare’s technologies. Clinical observations point to the potential for regeneration of new skin in as little as four days, rather than the many weeks of painful and risky recovery required by traditional skin graft techniques.

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Split brain explainer video: You Are Two

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The narrator uses a near-parody of the “youtube voice” to explain what happens when the bundle of neural fibers (corpus callosum) connecting the left and right hemispheres of a person’s brain is severed. The hemispheres will operate independently of each other, sometimes in an adversarial way. For example, when the right brain (which is less verbal than the left brain) is given a written instruction, the person reacts appropriately, but the left brain won’t know why the person followed the instruction, and will make up a reason for performing the action.

Here’s a video about a man who had his corpus callosum severed to treat his epilepsy. He said he doesn’t feel different but experiments reveal unusual behavior.

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Competition to stay "spaced-out" the longest


Last week, around 70 people participated in a “Space-out Competition” by the Han River in Seoul, Korea. According to Korea Bizwire, “The contestant who remained in the most stable, spaced-out position without falling asleep would be declared the winner.”

“I get most stressed when I’m waiting for my boss’s approval or listening to his never-ending lectures,” said one contestant. “I’ll get in trouble if I’m spaced out like this at work, but here, apparently, I’ll get a prize.”

From Korea Bizwire:

The players competed for 90 minutes. The rules were rather strict. They were not allowed to look at their cell phones, doze off or fall asleep. It was also prohibited for them to sing, laugh, or speak, any of which would lead to disqualification. The contestants’ heartbeats were checked every 15 minutes to see how comfortable they remained in their spaced-out positions.

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John Carpenter's Big Trouble in Little China, Volume 1


If you are anything like me, at all, you frequently wonder what happened next to Jack Burton and the rest of the Big Trouble in Little China gang? John Carpenter, Eric Powell, and Brian Churilla’s Big Trouble in Little China graphic novels tell the tale!


I’ve just started reading these BTiLC graphic novels, they pick up right where the movie left off. I could not be happier! The humor, the characters and the artwork are exactly what I’d have hoped for, if I had any idea these books were being published!

You can get the first 3 volumes now, volume 4 is available for pre-order, and releases later this year.

Big Trouble in Little China Vol. 1 via Amazon

Big Trouble in Little China Vol. 2 via Amazon

Big Trouble in Little China Vol. 3 via Amazon

Big Trouble In Little China Vol. 4 via Amazon

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Meet the robot Buddhist monk


Xian’er is a robotic Buddhist monk that lives at the 1,700 year-old Longquan Temple in Beijing, China. Video below. The temple is host to an animation and maker studio meant to blend technology, science, and spirituality. From CNN:

(Animation studio head and Buddhist master) Xianfan, a graduate of the Chinese Central Art Academy, first conceived Xian’er (Xian stands for virtuous. Er means dumb in Beijing dialect but is a term of endearment) in 2013 as a cartoon character…

(Xian’er) can answer up to 100 questions and a CNN team put him through his paces on a recent visit to the temple.

At first, he didn’t seem very co-operative. His head kept spinning around and, like a child, he kept saying: “Leave me alone; stop bothering me.”

But when he was in the mood, his Buddhist wisdom shined through:

“Where are you from?” we asked.

“How would I answer a question that you human beings have no answer to?” he quipped.

“Xian’er, who are your parents?” we countered.

“Do the designers count?” was his pithy reply.

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North Korea praises Donald Trump


An official media organ of the North Korean regime has endorsed Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, describing Democrat rival Hillary Clinton as “dull.”

An editorial in DPRK Today, an official media outlet, welcomed the Republican presidential candidate’s proposal to hold direct talks with Kim Jong-un, saying he could help bring about Pyongyang’s “Yankee go home” policy.

“There are many positive aspects to Trump’s ‘inflammatory policies’,” wrote Han Yong-mook, who described himself as a Chinese North Korean scholar.

“Trump said he will not get involved in the war between the South and the North, isn’t this fortunate from North Korea’ perspective?”

Analysts said that although the editorial was not officially from Pyongyang, it was sure to reflect thinking inside the regime.

And, yes, I checked to make sure it wasn’t a quip from @DPRK_News, the popular Twitter parody account with a gift for emulating the floridly vicious wooden-talk of North Korean propaganda.

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The Vulnerable 20 Group: coalition of 20 countries threatened by climate change


Reps from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Barbados, Bhutan, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Kiribati, Madagascar, Maldives, Nepal, Philippines, Rwanda, Saint Lucia, Tanzania, Timor-Leste, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Vietnam just gathered in Peru to announce the formation of the “Vulnerable 20” group, a coalition of 20 nations threatened by climate change.

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Tell the EU: don't put price-tags on hyperlinks!


Ruth writes, “The link tax is back, but we have a chance to stop it. The Save the Link network are pushing back against proposals in the EU for a new hyperlinking fee (AKA ‘ancillary copyright’) that will affect us all. If lobbyists succeed copyright rules will be extended to hyperlinks – giving publishers the right to charge business fees for linking to content.”

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Indie singer sues Bieber over unlicensed sample, but is it even her?


Singer Casey Daniel accused Skrillex and Justin Bieber of using a sample of her voice without permission, but the targets of her lawsuit seem to have a good defense: the sample was of another singer entirely, and Skrillex posted video showing how he produced it.

Daniel’s 2014 song Ring The Bell opens with a distinctive whooping cry from Daniel, repeated throughout:

You can hear it—according to Daniel—in Bieber’s Skrillex-produced 2015 megahit Sorry:

Here’s Daniel, on Facebook:

Like most artists that sample music, Bieber could have licensed my song for use in “Sorry.” But he chose not to contact me. After the release of “Sorry,” my lawyers sent Bieber a letter regarding the infringement, but Bieber’s team again chose to ignore me. I offered Bieber’s team an opportunity to have a private dialogue about the infringement, but they refused to even acknowledge my claim, despite the obviousness of the sample. Justin Bieber is the world’s biggest artist, and I’m sure that he and his team will launch a full attack against me. But, in the end, I was left with no other option. I believe I have an obligation to stand up for my music and art.

In response, though, Skrillex posted a video that seems to make obvious that the sample was in fact of a session singer.

“SORRY but we didn’t steal this,” Skrillex tweeted, with a prayer emoji. Bieber retweeted it, adding “#wedontsteal”.

If it looks like Daniel’s made a fool of herself, don’t count her out just yet. EDM musicians Deadmau5 and Diplo publicly supported her claim, with the former tweeting that he hoped she “bleeds em good.”

Things might not be as clear cut as Skrillex’s video makes at seem, with pundits pointing to the recent Marvin Gaye v. Robin Thicke case, where a jury found that merely emulating another artist’s sound can pass muster as copyright infringement. That case is being appealed; settlements are much, much cheaper.

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The return to a simpler, uglier web

brutalist websites

Pascal Deville loves “beautiful atrocities”—websites that could be described as intentionally brutalist were they not mostly just ugh. Fast Company interviewed him on his love of rough design, strangely compelling as it is in the age of bloated, broken, but very pretty websites.

“I wouldn’t call it a protest but a shout-out for more humanity in today’s web design,” Deville says. He views his site as a bastion for a segment of Internet culture of people who built scrappy websites themselves as opposed to using services with pre-canned templates like Squarespace. “Terms like UX and user friendly don’t have a lot of soul or guts and treat everything like a product. They also killed a lot of the web culture, which seems to find a voice on”

More from The Washington Post.

Intriguingly, Deville has found in his Q&As with coders and designers that few set out to mimic this newly popular aesthetic; instead, they all arrived at the same point out of a drive to create something original.

“[Brutalism] is interesting to me … because it doesn’t necessarily have a defined set of aesthetic signifiers,” said Jake Tobin, the designer behind “What defines those signifiers is decided by the platform it’s built on.”


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