Day: June 3, 2016

I wrote this review of a Freewrite on a Freewrite


I jumped on the Freewrite/Hemingwrite kickstarter ages ago. It took so long for the single purpose, first-draft-only word processor to show up, I’d occasionally forgotten it was coming. I’ve had it for a few weeks now, and last weekend I typed a review out, on the unit itself.

Thing is, you can’t edit on the unit. The review below is the raw output of my clattering away at the old-timey keyboard.

If there is elegence to be found in simplicity, the team at Astrohaus have done their damnedest with the Freewrite, their single-purpose, distraction-free word processor. Originally billed as the Hemingwrite, I bought into the kickstarter on this years ago, hoping it’d help me focus on some short stories I never get finished while working on my laptop, or bother to transcribe from my notebooks.

I waited a long time for this unit, so I’m a little less forgiving of the problems than I might be with another kickstarted piece of kit. I have absolutely no complaints about the fit and finish. The device is pretty lovely in its gaudiness. It is supposed to resemble a typewriter, I think of the 1920s-1930s generation of my Remington Rand Deluxe Porta 5. It sort of does, the selector switches are mounted in a way to resemble the reels for ribbon, but it more closely feels like a mid to late 1990s portable wordprocessor. It weighs slightly, but not much less. It works about the same, and part of its charm is that it throws back to a mechanical keyboard like they would have used back then.

The keyboard is pretty much heaven, if you come from the days of yore, as I do. It feels like I am jamming along on a Commodore Vic20, or a WYSE terminal. While the e-ink isn’t vac green, its about as slow as the old led based screens would have been. You get just enough text on the screen to let you read back 1-3 sentences. You can’t edit at all, aside from erasing with backspace, so watching as you type and not looking at your fingers on the keyboard is really critical. I find that if I miss a typo by more than 5 words, I try to leave it and not go back.

You can edit in Google Docs, Word or whatever editing/wordprocessing program you like, howev er once you start editing off the freewrite, you can’t directly append to the edited file with new text. Freewrite only uploads to the cloud, and creates a new file each time it does.

You can choose to have your file emailed to you, or saved to a Google drive, Dropbox or some Freewrite sponsored web application. I used Google Drive, as its what I use, and it was pretty easy to connect. Logging into new wifi networks is a mixed bag. Anything that has just an SSID and password will work, but managed free wifi networks like starbucks, which requires some html logging in, will not …read more

Flash drive with USB and Lightning connector


I like to watch videos (especially magic trick instruction videos) on my iPhone but I don’t like using iTunes to transfer movie files to my phone. (I don’t like using iTunes for any reason because it is a terrible application.) For the last couple of years, I’ve been using the LEEF 16GB iBridge ($60). I plug it into the USB port on my computer and copy movie files onto it. To watch the videos on my phone, I plug the Leef into the phone’s Lightning port and use the free Leef app to select and view the videos. It has never given me any trouble. 16GB is enough for me, but there are 32GB and 64GB versions available.

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Tacopedia – A sumptuous history of the taco


See sample pages from this book at Wink.


by Deborah Holtz, Juan Carlos Mena and René Redzepi

Phaidon Press

2015, 318 pages, 7.8 x 10 x 1.1 inches (flexibound)

$20 Buy a copy on Amazon

Whenever I’ve been away from NYC for a while, the first thing I always want to do when I get back is to have a taco (or three). My mouth starts watering as soon as I see the skyline. Southwesterners and Mexicans will laugh at this and feel sad for me but a good North East taco is the best option I have. So when I discovered Tacopedia through an NPR review, I immediately put it on my wishlist.

The book offers a sumptuous history of the taco, beginning circa 1000-500 BC when a legendary hero first created “nixtamal,” a malleable dough made by soaking dried corn in water and a bit of quicklime. Once rolled out and roasted, nixtamal becomes a tortilla, an “edible spoon” that can hold a near infinite variety of fillings and salsas.

After the background chapters, the book is divided into 8-10 page sections on popular and specialized tacos, including: grilled, barbacoa (lamb roasted underground in agave leaves, served with broth), basket (morning tacos par-cooked in the container they’re delivered in), and – for the adventurous – insect (!) tacos. Each entry includes the region of Mexico where the variety originated and describes how it has evolved over the years. It then recommends a handful of restaurants – many of them, tiny stands that have been operating for generations – where you can find the best examples of these delicacies. I showed the book to friends who regularly travel to Mexico City and they verified many of the choices. It also provides recipes so you can create reasonable facsimiles of these tacos using common kitchen equipment and ingredients.

The book is beautifully illustrated with hand-drawn infographics, cartoons and proverbs about tacos, plus street scenes of Mexicans from all walks of life indulging. Tacopedia (originally published in Spanish in 2013, then translated and released in the US in 2015) would make an excellent companion reference on a foodie trip to Mexico, which I hope to take one day.

The first photo (above) was taken at Cinco de Mayo, my neighborhood taco place.

– William Smith of Hangfire Books

June 3, 2016

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Remember Winnie Cooper from The Wonder Years?

Meet Danica McKellar who as an undergraduate in college co-published a paper titled “Percolation and Gibbs states multiplicity for ferromagnetic Ashkin-Teller models on Z2,” research that resulted in the Chayes–McKellar–Winn theorem. Oh yeah, before that, McKellar was Winnie on The Wonder Years.

(And just to confirm, Josh Saviano who played Paul Pfeiffer did not grow up to become Marilyn Manson.)

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TV newscast delivered in Eskimo–Aleut language


I have never heard Greenlandic being spoken. It’s like nothing I’ve heard before. To my untrained ears, it sounds like the vocal track is being run backwards.

From Wikipedia:

Greenlandic is an Eskimo–Aleut language spoken by about 57,000 Greenlandic Inuit in Greenland. It is closely related to the Inuit languages in Canada such as Inuktitut. The main variety, Kalaallisut or West Greenlandic, has been the official language of the Greenlandic autonomous territory since June 2009; this is a move by the Naalakkersuisut (government of Greenland) to strengthen the language in its competition with the colonial language, Danish. The second variety is Tunumiit oraasiat or East Greenlandic. The Thule Inuit of Greenland, Inuktun or Polar Eskimo, is a recent arrival and a dialect of Inuktitut.

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The secret messages inside "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland"


Is “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” actually about psychedelic drugs, British colonialism, or penis envy? Depends who you ask. At the BBC, Hephzibah Anderson surveys 150 years of weird readings of Lewis Carroll’s classic book. From Anderson’s essay:

Re-examining the text, critics found plenty of gynaecological imagery, from the rabbit hole itself to the curtain that she must push aside. Locks and keys were seen as symbolic of coitus, and the caterpillar – well, wasn’t he just a bit… phallic? Inevitably, some saw penis envy in the text, rendering Alice’s extending neck a kind of copycat erection. And then there’s the fanning that she does before she starts to shrink, and the salt water that laps her chin once she’s mere inches tall – both acquire a decidedly masturbatory glossing.

More nuanced readings have viewed Alice’s journey as being less about sex per se and more about a girl’s progress through childhood and puberty into adulthood. Our heroine feels uncomfortable in her body, which undergoes a series of extreme changes; her sense of her self becomes destabilised, leaving her uncertain of her own identity; she butts heads with authority and strives to understand seemingly arbitrary rules, the games that people around her play, and even death.

Famed literary scholar William Empson got especially carried away, declaring that Alice is “a father in getting down the hole, a foetus at the bottom, and can only be born by becoming a mother and producing her own amniotic fluid”.

Alice in Wonderland’s Hidden Messages(BBC)

(Top artwork from the beautiful edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland illustrated by Camille Rose Garcia.)

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Cosplayer attacks man on subway for eating sunflower seeds


Don’t watch this video if you don’t want to see an attack that results in bloodshed.

In this video, which may have been taken in Shanghai, a young man throws seed shells on the floor of a subway car in defiance of other passengers telling him to stop. Suddenly, a man in a costume runs up and violently attacks the litterbug with a rubber hammer, drawing blood. The attacker is accompanied by a woman in costume. Are they cosplayers or misguided real-life superheroes? It’s hard to tell.

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Defense lawyers: the FBI made us use a copy-shop that made secret copies for the government


Attorneys for Dr Salo Schapiro, on trial in Miami for Medicare fraud, says that the FBI and the US Attorney have engaged in a decade-long conspiracy to improperly gain access to confidential defense documents, in a scheme that used a crooked Ft Lauderdale copy shop that slipped CDs containing scanned confidential defense documents that had been entrusted to it to the FBI and the DA.


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Cart your booze in this classy Louis Vuitton suitcase bar


This stately and elegant Whiskey Case was made-to-order by Louis Vuitton in the 1980s. There is one available at posh 20th century design shop Pullman Gallery. From Pullman Gallery:

In effectively unused condition, the square case with top carrying-handle is in gold Epi leather, with gold-plated studs, latches and lock, and original key. The drop-front exposes the interior, lined in deep green alcantara and grained leather and fitted with compartments containing all a whisky connoisseur would require – a single, heavy glass silver-mounted whisky carafe, four whisky beakers, a Thermos-lined ice bucket and a nut or olive dish, all in Sterling silver and marked Christofle for Louis Vuitton. A stamped pair of silver tongs and a corkscrew with cover, completes the set.

I’ve requested the price. The recent update of the Whiskey Case is approximately $35,000.


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Solve your MacBook storage needs with Nifty MiniDrive - just $39.99

Additional storage for your MacBook can be a bigger hassle than you’d expect. External storage can mean toting around an external drive everywhere you go.

Instead, increase your storage capacity by another 128GB with the Nifty MiniDrive for MacBooks, available now for just $33.99 in the Boing Boing Store.

Just slide the MiniDrive into your MacBook’s SD card slot with a micro SD card – and you’re set. You’ve got up to 128GB of extra space, and it’s mostly invisible once you plug it in, so you can feel free to leave it there permanently.

MiniDrive also integrates with Time Machine and can be set to store daily automatic backups of your MacBook’s most vital files. And no matter what type MacBook you’re rocking – Pro, Air or Retina 13 or 15-inch varieties – MiniDrive’s got an version made just for your system.

Handle your external storage needs with the Nifty MiniDrive for MacBooks, now 15% off while the deal lasts.

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Woman buys used freezer containing seller's frozen mother


A Goldsboro, North Carolina woman bought her neighbor’s used freezer for $30, not realizing it contained frozen parts of the seller’s dead mother.

Curiously, the buyer had the freezer for several weeks before opening it because the seller told her it was part of a “time capsule” project at Sunday School and the church would pick up the contents. The church folks never came, so the buyer finally peeked inside, spotted the body, and called 911.

The seller had already moved away but is under police investigation for felony concealing or failing to notify the death of a person.

“(She was) Just the sweetest lady,” the buyer said of the seller. “I mean quiet, kept to herself, stayed at home. Just unbelievable how she could just stick her mom in a freezer.”

Also unbelievable is that someone would purchase a used, $30 freezer without opening it first.


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Watch museum visitor knock clock sculpture off wall


As with most museums, Pennsylvania’s National Watch & Clock Museum has a “no touching” policy. But one couple wanted so badly to see artist James Borden’s wooden clock sculpture run that they couldn’t help themselves…

Museum director Noel Poirier told NBC Philadelphia that the couple reported the mishap to museum staff. The clock is undergoing repairs and will be on display again in a few months.


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Campus rapist given lenient sentence to avoid "severe impact on him"

Convicted rapist Brock Allen Turner

Former Stanford University athlete Brock Allen Turner, 20, raped an unconscious woman behind a dumpster. Prosecutors wanted him put away for 6 years, but the judge, Aaron Perksy, gave him 6 months to avoid being unnecessarily harsh on the boy. He’ll be out in a few weeks.

After a jury convicted Turner of sexually penetrating an intoxicated and unconscious person with a foreign object, prosecutors asked a judge to sentence him to six years in California prison. Probation officials had recommended the significantly lighter penalty of six months in county jail, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

The judge, Aaron Perksy, cited Turner’s age and lack of criminal history as factors in his decision, saying, “A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him … I think he will not be a danger to others.”

This was described as a “brazen” attack: he was physically forced off of his victim, then chased down and detained by passers-by until police arrived. Yet this column, by Scott Herhold, was the sort of coverage he enjoyed in the press:

Turner was rightfully convicted. I wrote a column earlier this year praising the two Stanford students, both from Sweden, who interrupted the assault and chased the drunken athlete down.

But probation officials, who see hundreds of less remorseful defendants, had it right. Turner should be given six months in county jail. He is not, as the prosecution has it, “a continued threat to the community.” Why do I say that? The probation people cite his lack of a criminal record and what they see as genuine remorse. His attorneys have argued that the ex-swimmer has a record of real accomplishment.

A real record of accomplishment indeed. Her suffering is as invisible to men like this this as the costs of his crime—and it always will be.

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After a coup, a judgment: Brazil's "interim president" barred from holding office for 8 years


Last month, a controversial political machination at the top levels of Brazil’s government saw the removal of its elected left-wing president, Dilma Rousseff, and her replacement with an appointed, neoliberal “interim president” President Michel Temer, who has now been convicted of committing election fraud and barred from holding elected office in Brazil for 8 years.

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Genetic study suggests dogs emerged independently from two wolf populations


The origin of dogs is a hot topic among biologists, who’ve fought over whether there’s a single point of origin from wolves and when and where it (or they) happened. A new study suggests the answer is twice, independently, from populations of wolves in western Europe and in east Asia. But they interbred, so most modern dogs are descended from both western and eastern groups.

The geographic and temporal origins of dogs remain controversial. We generated genetic sequences from 59 ancient dogs and a complete (28x) genome of a late Neolithic dog (dated to ~4800 calendar years before the present) from Ireland. Our analyses revealed a deep split separating modern East Asian and Western Eurasian dogs. Surprisingly, the date of this divergence (~14,000 to 6400 years ago) occurs commensurate with, or several millennia after, the first appearance of dogs in Europe and East Asia. Additional analyses of ancient and modern mitochondrial DNA revealed a sharp discontinuity in haplotype frequencies in Europe. Combined, these results suggest that dogs may have been domesticated independently in Eastern and Western Eurasia from distinct wolf populations. East Eurasian dogs were then possibly transported to Europe with people, where they partially replaced European Paleolithic dogs.

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Democratic "superdelegates" endorse Bernie


At the outset of the campaign for the Democratic nomination, many of the party’s “superdelegates” (party grandees, including current and former officeholders, party officials, etc, who have the ability to swing the nomination at the convention if they think the popular vote has selected an “unelectable” candidate) publicly pledged for Hillary Clinton, but Sanders supporters have held out hope that they would switch sides when it became apparent that Bernie Sanders had a better chance of winning the general election than Hillary Clinton did.


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George W. Bush's torture-justifying lawyer is worried about Trump's respect for the law


When John Yoo thinks you’re an unacceptably authoritarian threat to the rule of law, does that make you one of the baddies? The New York Times reports on conservative legal eagles unsettled by Trump’s naked threats to wield presidential power against his enemies.

There are other precedents, said John C. Yoo, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who took an expansive view of executive power as a lawyer in the Bush administration. “The only two other presidents I can think of who were so hostile to judges on an individual level and to the judiciary as a whole would be Thomas Jefferson and Franklin Roosevelt,” he said.

Both of those presidents chafed at what they saw as excessive judicial power. “But they weren’t doing it because they had cases before those judges as individuals,” Professor Yoo said. “They had legitimate separation-of-powers fights between the presidency and the judiciary. Trump is lashing out because he has a lawsuit in a private capacity, which is much more disturbing.”

Yoo wrote infamous memos justifying the Bush Administration’s use of torture to get (largely useless) information from terror suspects.

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