Day: June 15, 2016

Dozens of news orgs demand DOJ release its secret rules for targeting journalists with secret National Security Letters


Freedom of the Press Foundation recently filed a huge brief in the organization’s case demanding that the Justice Department release its secret rules for targeting journalists with National Security Letters. And in related news, a coalition of 37 news organizations – including the New York Times, The Associated Press, USA Today, Buzzfeed, and tons more – filed an amicus brief in support of the Freedom of the Press Foundation case, demanding that the Department of Justice do the same.


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Demystifying Heironymous Bosch with this visual marvel of a book


Hieronymous Bosch: Complete Works

by Stefan Fischer (author) and Hieronymus Bosch (artist)


2016, 300 pages, 9.7 x 13.1 x 1.2 inches

$27 Buy a copy on Amazon

It is, perhaps, fitting that we know the date of Heironymous Bosch’s death while his date of birth remains unclear. We know that Bosch died 500 years ago and so much of what he left us is directly concerned with the afterlife or at least the spiritual journeys that humanity takes to the endpoint of life. The artwork of Bosch is wholly concerned with Christian allegory of the most human, inhuman, and superhuman variety. When one comes to behold a Bosch masterpiece, the lives of saints and the woes of sinners are the subject matter, and sometimes they are one and the same. There is a complexity that is easily identified in any one Bosch piece, but unravelling the intertwined religious and cultural allegories is beyond most. In Heironymous Bosch, The Complete Works, we are offered a unique opportunity, not only to demystify singular works of Bosch, but to take in the entire life and progression of this artist’s journey.

Bosch is a subject of his particular epoch and circumstance, as well as an innovator that transcends both. Granted access to the scholarly resources of the Brotherhood of Our Blessed Lady in the late-medieval and Netherlandish-provincial town of ‘s-Hertogenbosch, the layman Heironymous was given a unique perspective that very few outside the clergy enjoyed in this period. To look upon his works, from The Garden of Earthly Delights to The Last Judgement, one is not just witnessing the depiction of an event from scripture but rather a studied worldview, laid out in full, of a transitional moment between the late Gothic and early Renaissance.

Heironymous Bosch, The Complete Works may be primarily an art book at which one can visually marvel for hours, but it is well worth noting that the textual journey is equal to the imagery on display. It is genuinely surprising that this book is so very enlightening in the text by Stefan Fischer that accompanies the works themselves. While our modern tendency might be to shallowly interpret the many impish grotesques that populate Bosch’s work as overt evil by their displeasing appearance alone, in doing so we would miss the deeper religious allegory, the intertextual allusions to a tradition of religious artwork, and the genius of the original hybrid drolleries that Bosch uses to symbolize, in sometimes quite elaborate visual metaphors, the vices of humankind. Fischer guides the reader through these works, adeptly identifying not just what is being displayed, but why these creatures exist on the canvas. As a result, Fischer’s text becomes profoundly useful for navigating and better appreciating the meticulous detail of Bosch’s overwhelmingly busy scene-scapes.


Take, for example, from The Temptation of St. Anthony the creature on skates with a note pierced by its beak and a funnel for a hat from which extrudes a branch with a red ball tied to it by a string. …read more

Startup looks to paint the sky with artificial meteor showers

ALE concept art

ALE, a Japanese start-up, aims to create artificial meteor showers. From their very own satellite, the engineers at ALE would launch pellets into the upper atmosphere, creating one giant light show.

Via National Geographic:

Now, if a Japanese start-up called ALE has its way, a satellite capable of generating artificial meteor showers will be in orbit sometime in the next two years. From 314 miles (500 kilometers) above Earth’s surface, the orbiter will shoot metal spheres the size of blueberries into the upper atmosphere.

As these particles move across the sky at roughly 17,400 miles (28,000 kilometers) an hour, the spheres will burn into brilliant crisps—painting the night with colorful streaks on demand.

ALE’s particles are larger than most found in natural meteor showers, ensuring a longer burn and a bigger, brighter fireball, according to company spokesperson Rie Yamamoto. What’s more, ALE’s meteors would move across the sky slower than the natural variety, further lengthening their burn time.

And depending on the metals used to make the spheres, the company could create meteors of many different colors, using the chemistry of terrestrial fireworks to conjure up a rainbow of high-altitude flames.

Want a scarlet meteor, like the ominous red comet in Game of Thrones? Shoot a pellet made of strontium. Do you desire a sea-foam green streak across the sky? Make your meteoroid out of copper.

There’s no denying the entertainment value of ALE’s “Sky Canvas” plan, which came to company CEO Lena Okajima after watching the Leonid meteor shower 15 years ago. Some news outlets have even suggested a link between ALE and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics’ opening ceremony, despite the company’s insistence that it isn’t currently involved.

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Washington Post calls for "blackout" on Trump coverage, appeals to RNC


Donald Trump’s butt-hurt, thin-skinned response to the Washington Post‘s basic, journalistic skepticism about his Obama-conspires-with-terrorists was to yank the paper’s media credentials, adding them to the growing pool of media that is barred from Trump events, which includes “Politico, Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, Gawker, Foreign Policy, Fusion, Univision, Mother Jones, the New Hampshire Union Leader, the Des Moines Register and the Daily Beast” — as well as any previously accredited news outlet that Trump doesn’t feel like admitting on any given day.

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A WiFi range extender that works


I’m having pretty good luck with this TP-Link range extender. It has lots of antennae.

My house is a long, 3 level rectangle, and of course the internet access point is on a distant end, at the lowest level. I’ve been very happy with the Nighthawk router I’ve been using, but there are still parts of the house that are a pain to reach. I’ve tried various wireless extenders, have Apple Airport Expresses coming out the wazoo, and Ethernet-over-Power, none of which allowed me decent access while I’m working in the kitchen. Enter the TP-Link AC1750.

There is some crazy marketing on the box. I have no idea what the beam forming technology is or does, I expected to see the wifi radio waves all bending in towards my iPad as I worked away in the kitchen. What this is, is a wall wort WiFi extender that works. Thankfully it was made with a fit flat profile rather than one like Apple’s awful ’90-degrees-off-the-wall’ Express. What does work is more antennae. I’m convinced. More antennae is the criteria I use when selecting WiFi gear.

The TP-Link AC1750 works on my 2.4 and 5 GHz devices just fine. I had a lot of stuttering start with iTunes and Airplay between devices in my kitchen, and my stereo. I switched the Airport Express I use for the stereo to 2.4GHz only and the funk is back.

Configuration was simple, and via an iPhone app. Android is also available.

TP-LINK AC1750 Wi-Fi Range Extender (RE450) via Amazon

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Anderson Cooper outs anti-gay Florida General Attorney as hypocrite


Wow! Watch Anderson Cooper grill, er, I mean interview Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who for years has fought tooth and nail to ban same sex marriage and adoption by gay couples, but who is now acting like an LGBT advocate after the Orlando shooting.

Cooper actually calls her a hypocrite, and then goes on to say, “You were arguing that if there was same sex marriage…that would do harm to the people of Florida.”

Bondi squirms. “Of course not. Of course not. I’ve never said that. Those words have never come out of my mouth.”

“But that is specifically what you were arguing in court,” Cooper counters.

The interview goes on for over 5 minutes, every bit of it as cringe-worthy as the next. Towards the end Cooper says, “Had there been no gay marriage…you do realize that there would be no spouces, that boyfriends and girlfrieds of the dead would not be able to get information and would probably not be able to visit in the hospital here. Isn’t there a sick irony in that?”

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Kickstarting a pair of goth cookbooks featuring drawings of Morrissey and Nick Cave


Elly from Microcosm Publishing writes, “Artist Automne Zingg started drawing pictures of Nick Cave gorging on comfort foods and Morrissey hoarding treats a few years ago to get over a breakup and it turned into an obsession. We got rockstar chef Joshua Ploeg to write lyrics-inspired vegan recipes to go with the books, and the result is… magic.”

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A hiking guide strands 60 hikers in Austrian Alps


Sixty hikers from Hungary were stranded in the Austrian Alps last weekend when their drunk guide disappeared. Apparently the guide wandered off and found his way back to the bottom of the mountain, leaving his group behind.

The hikers set off at around 3pm local time (2pm BST) on Saturday with an unqualified guide from a Hungarian trekking association to explore the Rax mountain range in eastern Austria, according to local police.

But around an hour later Austrian emergency services received a call from a distressed member of the group, who said he was lost with his daughter in the mountains.

The weather was taking a turn for the worse as 12 rescuers brought the group back down to safety. The group then ran into the irresponsible “guide,” who claimed he hadn’t touched a drop of alcohol. Read the Telegraph’s full story here.

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Let's teach programming as a tool for analyzing data to transform the world

Globaloria_students_working (1)

Data-scientist Kevin H Wilson argues that computers are tools for manipulating data — from companies’ sales data to the input from games controllers — but we teach computer programming as either a way to make cool stuff (like games) or as a gateway to “rigorous implementation details of complicated language,” while we should be focusing on fusing computer and math curriciula to produce a new generation of people who understand how to use computers to plumb numbers to find deep, nuanced truths we can act upon.

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Finally tackle your reading list with the Essential Speed Reading Bundle - now 87% off

Speed reading is one of those abilities that feels like a superpower. But the truth is, it’s a skill anyone can develop with the right instruction!

Understand the art of speed reading, and learn to read and comprehend up to 3,700 times faster with this Essential Speed Reading Bundle, only $19 in the Boing Boing Store.

You’ll start your instruction with a three-year subscription to Spreeder CX, an e-reading program that ramps up your RSVP (rapid serial visual presentation) skills. It’s a text method that cuts down on eye movement and boosts how much information you receive as your reading speed increases.

But just reading faster doesn’t matter if you can’t retain it…so you’ll also get a three-year subscription to its companion program 7 Speed Reading EX. Here, you focus on training videos, exercises and other methods to improve your reading speed while achieving 100% information retention.

A $150 value, boost your information intake with the Essential Speed Reading Bundle for 87% off MSRP, while this offer lasts.

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Video of 15 sorting algorithms, with "audibilization"

Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 10.41.02 PM

It’s fascinating to see and hear the distinctive personalities of the different sorting algorithms in this 5-minute video. My favorite is the bogo sort at the end, which sounds the best but seems to do a poor job of sorting

Visualization and “audibilization” of 15 Sorting Algorithms in 6 Minutes.

Sorts random shuffles of integers, with both speed and the number of items adapted to each algorithm’s complexity.

The algorithms are: selection sort, insertion sort, quick sort, merge sort, heap sort, radix sort (LSD), radix sort (MSD), std::sort (intro sort), std::stable_sort (adaptive merge sort), shell sort, bubble sort, cocktail shaker sort, gnome sort, bitonic sort and bogo sort (30 seconds of it).

Sorting videos are popular on YouTube. I like these ones that show robotos competing to sort balls from darkest to lightest:

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California prosecutor's complaint sees Brock Turner judge removed from new case


Aaron Persky, the California judge who let rapist Brock Turner off with a 6-month term in county jail, was removed from a new case Tuesday after prosecutors complained they lacked confidence in him.

“We lack confidence that Judge (Aaron) Persky can fairly participate in this upcoming hearing in which a male nurse sexually assaulted an anesthetised female patient,” Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen said in a statement. He called the move “rare and carefully considered”. …

Stacey Capps, chief trial deputy for the District Attorney’s office, said the new case was reassigned to another judge and a hearing was held on Tuesday afternoon. She said that the victim was “particularly vulnerable” factored into the move. Capps said in the new case, Cecil Webb stands accused of touching the vagina and breast of a woman who was anesthetised ahead of a surgery at a Santa Clara hospital in November 2014.

Rosen, though disagreeing with Turner’s sentence, earlier backed the judge against criticism of his impartiality. But now he, too, is a critic of his impartiality.

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Dental regulators want to stop man from selling teeth made from Sculpey


Dental regulators in Canada are trying to stop a DIY toothmaker from selling false teeth made of craft store modeling clay. Matthew Ronald Block has been making false teeth in his apartment and selling them for $100.

From CBC:

According to documents filed in the case, Block came to the authorities’ attention last August after boasting in a Craigslist ad of having “invented a temporary flipper type false tooth” to help his girlfriend overcome a dental abnormality.

“She is able to do everything she would with a normal smile like eat, kiss, sing etc,” the ad said.

“The idea that others may be in similar situations and would benefit from my assistance has been in the back of my mind for several months.”

The ad, which has since disappeared, offered to sell individually fitted teeth for $100 each.

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Surviving Edged Weapons, fabulous police training video from the VHS 'n' Crack era


“Of course, you’re aware of the balisong,” intones the deep-voiced narrator, “… or butterfly knife.

Awesome, terrifying, paranoid and goofy, Surviving Edged Weapons is a relic of another era, an age of fishhook earrings and razor blade-impregnated ballcaps, where reality itself stars Charles Bronson. Which, of course, it did. (more…)

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Trump's conspiracy theory catchphrase: "There's something going on"


Little-mentioned but often-said is Trump’s other catchphrase: “there’s something going on.” It’s used to insinuate a conspiracy, to trigger feelings of paranoia and fear in his audience without committing to specifics. He screwed up over the weekend and attached it to a too-concrete suggestion that President Obama was somehow involved in the Orlando nightclub massacre.

In the fallout, he ended up withdrawing the Washington Post’s credentials to cover his rallies and press events after the newspaper reported plainly on his remarks. So who better than them to explain that now-obvious phrase’s meaning?

That phrase, according to political scientists who study conspiracy theories, is characteristic of politicians who seek to exploit the psychology of suspicion and cynicism to win votes.

The idea that people in positions of power or influence are conspiring to conceal sinister truths from the public can be inherently appealing, because it helps make sense of tragedy and satisfies the human need for certainty and order. Yet politicians hoping to take advantage of these tendencies must rely on vague and suggestive statements, since any specific accusation could be easily disproved.

“He’s leaving it to the audience to piece together what he’s saying,” said Joseph Uscinski, a political scientist at the University of Miami, in a recent interview.

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Intel x86s hide another CPU that can take over your machine (you can't audit it)


The Intel Management Engine (ME) is a subsystem composed of a special 32-bit ARC microprocessor that’s physically located inside the chipset. It is an extra general purpose computer running a firmware blob that is sold as a management system for big enterprise deployments.

When you purchase your system with a mainboard and Intel x86 CPU, you are also buying this hardware add-on: an extra computer that controls the main CPU. This extra computer runs completely out-of-band with the main x86 CPU meaning that it can function totally independently even when your main CPU is in a low power state like S3 (suspend).

On some chipsets, the firmware running on the ME implements a system called Intel’s Active Management Technology (AMT).
This is entirely transparent to the operating system, which means that this extra computer can do its job regardless of which operating system is installed and running on the main CPU.

The purpose of AMT is to provide a way to manage computers remotely (this is similar to an older system called “Intelligent Platform Management Interface” or IPMI, but more powerful). To achieve this task, the ME is
capable of accessing any memory region without the main x86 CPU knowing about the existence of these accesses. It also runs a TCP/IP server on your network interface and packets entering and leaving your machine on certain ports bypass any firewall running on your system.

While AMT can be a great value-add, it has several troubling
disadvantages. ME is classified by security researchers as “Ring -3”. Rings of security can be defined as layers of security that affect particular parts of a system, with a smaller ring number corresponding to an area closer to the hardware. For example, Ring 3 threats are defined as security threats that manifest in “userspace” mode. Ring 0 threats occur in “kernel” level, Ring -1 threats occur in a “hypervisor” level, one level lower than the kernel, while Ring -2 threats occur in a special CPU mode called “SMM” mode.
SMM stands for System-Management-Mode, a special mode that Intel CPUs can be put into that runs a separately defined chunk of code. If attackers can modify the SMM code and trigger the mode, they can get arbitrary execution of code on a CPU.

Although the ME firmware is cryptographically protected with RSA 2048, researchers
have been able to exploit weaknesses in the ME firmware and take partial
control of the ME on early models. This makes ME a huge security
loophole, and it has been called a very powerful rootkit mechanism. Once a system is compromised by a rootkit, attackers can gain administration access and undetectably attack the computer.


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