Ric on Twitter

  • 10 September, 2012 - 10:55
    Any watch freaks out there? Time for some early Xmas shopping! http://t.co/kM5C8cyx
  • 25 July, 2012 - 10:14
    Have you kicked the tires on the Joomla 3 Alpha? If so, I'd love to know what you think.
  • 17 July, 2012 - 17:25
  • 17 July, 2012 - 16:18
    The Alpha release of the new Joomla! 3.0 is out now. The release is primarily intended for extension developers... http://t.co/eX31fk0o
  • 9 July, 2012 - 23:45
    My latest book is out: Joomla! Search Engine Optimization http://t.co/3lToGUhh #joomla #seo

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Brain candy for Happy Mutants
Updated: 1 hour 6 min ago

LA Sheriff's bizarre Compton surveillance

2 hours 44 min ago
Matthew says: For nine days in 2012, the Los Angeles County Sheriff used a spy plane to record low-resolution images of every corner of Compton. Residents of Compton were not told they were under aerial surveillance. The LASD initially claimed Compton was chosen because the city is flat. Critics pointed out most of Los Angeles County is flat, and asked whether Beverly Hills would also undergo aerial surveillance. Journalists also pointed out the videotaping: 1: Is too low-resoltuion to identify anyone, so... 2: it's worthless as evidence, and... 3: The video wasn't real-time so police wouldn't catch anyone in the act So what, exactly, was the point of this expensive program?

Categories: The Essentials

Muslims sue FBI: kept on no-fly list because they wouldn't turn informant

4 hours 23 min ago

A suit brought by four Muslim-American men with no criminal records asserts that the FBI put them on the no-fly list in order to pressure them to inform on their communities. Brooklynite Awais Sajjad, one of the plaintiffs, says that he was denied boarding for a flight to visit his sickly grandmother in Pakistan in 2012, and that subsequently, the FBI told him they would remove him from the no-fly list only if he worked as an FBI informant. Sajjad's has tried all the official means of getting himself removed from the no-fly list, without any success. Sajjad's co-plaintiffs tell similar stories.

The case echoes that of Dr Rahinah Ibrahim, the first person to successfully appeal being placed on the US no-fly list. In her case, it emerged that she had been put on the list due to an administrative error (an FBI officer ticked the wrong box on a form) and that subsequently the DHS, Justice Department and FBI conspired to use state secrecy to cover up their error, even though they knew that there was no conceivable reason to keep Ibrahim on the no-fly list.

Sajjad and co will have to overcome the same secrecy privilege and the same culture of ass-covering indifference to innocence from the FBI and its allies in government. I don't like their chances, but I wish them luck.

Sajjad's attorneys, Susan Hu and Diala Shamas, told Ars that, prior to filing this suit, Sajjad had exhausted all other possible administrative procedures. They explained that, upon learning of his no-fly list status, he immediately filed a Department of Homeland Security Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (TRIP) application, as well as an appeal a year later. But never heard back from DHS regarding either this initial application or appeal.

Hu and Shamas also said that their clients' constitutional due process and free speech rights have been violated. The no-fly redress procedures, they argued, fail to provide any meaningful notice or opportunity to see or challenge the allegations that gets someone placed on the list. Additionally, their clients' placement on the no-fly list, allegedly in retaliation for exercising their rights to not become informants, violates their First Amendment rights, the lawyers said.

"The lack of transparency is the biggest problem here," Hu said. "It's not enough to tell the American people to trust us. Especially when you have clear instances of abuse."

Hu further described what the plaintiffs hope to accomplish in suing the government: "Our clients are not a risk to aviation security. So the government should tell them that they are off the no-fly list. They also need to create adequate safeguards so that our clients have opportunity for notice and a fair hearing. We hope to make the whole process more transparent."

Suit claims Muslims put on no-fly list for refusing to become informants [Joe Silver/Ars Technica]

(Image: J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building, Cliff, CC-BY)

Categories: The Essentials

Plastic dice in bulk

4 hours 51 min ago

I carry 3 red dice in my back pocket so that I can play a game called Cee-lo with people that I meet. Like most betting games, Cee-lo has a rough reputation. But played among friends, not betting for money, it can be rather wholesome.

I really like being able to play a simple dice game with people for a few reasons:

- it’s a really fun game!
- I’ve successfully played it with kindergartners and every age group above,
- I’ve gotten mixed age groups to have a GREAT time playing,
- It never runs out of batteries or needs to be upgraded,
- it’s very portable,
- it gets people to talk in real time,
- I don’t have to hand an expensive device to other people or count on them having one, or having one compatible to mine.

I’ve also found that the game itself is pretty simple, but with the betting aspect things get really interesting. And the world is full of trinkets to bet with. Collect a bunch of stones, or sugar packets, or tear up a piece of paper into bits that are all roughly the same size, or anything you can get a reasonable number of and you’re in business.

That said, my personal favorite thing to bet with is the little scraps that people have in their pockets: twist ties, tooth picks, vitamin pills, movie stubs. It is amazing to see how people will value these little bits of nothing while they are playing, but once the game is over, it all goes back to being little bits of trash. (I also like to see what people do to get that one important item back, that they really shouldn’t have played in the game…)

One thing about dice games: everyone plays them different. To paraphrase the Cee-lo advice U-God of Wu Tang in this NSFW (language) video: state the rules and save some fools. Better to spend a bit of time outlining the rules at the beginning then to get into any sort of fight later. (And not a bad rule in life in general.)

So, here is how I play Cee-lo:

Cee-lo – 2 or more players – 3 dice

Determine who is going to be playing and who is going to be the first player.

If betting, all players put in their bet.

The first player rolls all three dice until they get a recognized combination, or are otherwise disqualified

The combinations are, ranked from best to worst:

The highest possible roll. Instant win of the round for the player who rolled it. They take the entire pot, and the next round begins. This skips the turns of anyone who has not gone.

Rolling three of the same number is known as “trips”. Higher trips beat lower trips, so 4-4-4 is better than 3-3-3.

“Spare and a Pair”
Rolling a pair, and another number, establishes the singleton as a “point.” A higher point beats a lower point, so 1-1-3 is better than 6-6-2.

Automatic loss. Play forfeits turn, but the game continues.

Any other roll is a meaningless combination and must be rerolled until one of the above combinations occurs. It is also an automatic loss if a player rolls the dice 5 times without getting a meaningful combination.

If either of the dice roll off the playing surface, it is also an automatic loss for the player.

Play then proceeds around to other players, going clockwise.

The player who rolls the best combination wins. In cases of a tie for the best combination, there is a a shoot-out: the players who tied will play another round of the game until there is a single winner.

The winner gets to stat the next round.

And that is all there is to it! I also like it the way the game is explained in this video.

There are PLENTY of other games you can play with dice. But, Cee-lo one my favorite!

I usually buy dice by the 100, so after I teach people, I can give them their own set. -- Mark Krawczuk

100 Red Dice: $18

Categories: The Essentials

Pug levitates up stairs

7 hours 2 min ago
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Making a planetary-scale sandwich

7 hours 22 min ago

Svabialonso, a redditor in Iceland, teamed up with a friend on the (approximately) opposite side of the planet in New Zealand to make a world-sized sandwich: each of them went to a specific location at a set time and pressed a piece of bread to the ground there, with appropriate toppings.

Categories: The Essentials

A musical letter to the FCC by Jonathan Mann: 'Don't Blow up the Internet'

8 hours 39 min ago

By Jonathan Mann: "Don't Blow Up The Internet | Song A Day #1939." Don't set us up the bomb, FCC. [Video Link]

Contact the FCC commissioners if you're concerned that the new proposed internet rules will gut Net Neutrality, and change the internet to a less free and less open communications platform: "FCC planning new Internet rules that will gut Net Neutrality."

Categories: The Essentials

Announcing BundyFest 2014, in the rules-free anarchy zone of Bunkersville, Nevada

8 hours 54 min ago
Video Link [thanks Bob and David Pescovitz, it's a joke everyone]


Categories: The Essentials

The Silence of the Lambs, behind-the-scenes

8 hours 59 min ago

Behind-the-scenes photos from Jonathan Demme's "The Silence of the Lambs" (1991). Several others below and still more over at Dangerous Minds.

Categories: The Essentials

Students raise money, give away 300 copies of book banned in their school

9 hours 2 min ago
Jaimie sez, "My bookstore helped a high school student distribute almost 300 free copies of "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" by Sherman Alexie, a book that has been challenged and removed from the Meridian (Idaho) School District curriculum." Funds were raised by two Washington students." They're going to give away another 350 copies that the publisher donated next week. Go kids! (Thanks, Jamie!)

Categories: The Essentials

The Muppet Show: The Bug Band play The Beatles

9 hours 10 min ago

The Bug Band performs "She Loves You" on The Muppet Show in 1979. According to the Muppet Wiki, they were a nameless group until Kermit told them they needed a moniker. They suggested "The Grateful Dead" and "The Who." (via Experimental Music on Children's TV)

Categories: The Essentials

3-D printed portable wheelchair ramps

9 hours 40 min ago

Thingiverse user Nanonan 3D-printed small wheelchair ramps to carry in his bag as he rolls around Berlin. Simple and effective! Download the files here.

Categories: The Essentials

Forrest Gump directed by Wes Anderson

9 hours 53 min ago

Here are the opening credits to Forrest Gump, directed by Wes Anderson. (video by Louis Paquet)

Categories: The Essentials

Shadows from NYC supertowers are a bummer

10 hours 1 min ago

Some New Yorkers are upset about the shadows cast by the new supertower skyscrapers near Central Park and other public hang-outs. Above, the shadow of One57, an 85-story skyscraper currently under construction, on Central Park. At a community meeting on the issue, the president of Extell Development, the firm behind One57, responded that "the shadows cast by tall, slender buildings, which is what most of the buildings going up are, are very brief — maybe they're 10 minutes in any one place — and cause no negative effect on the flora or fauna of the park." According to City Councilman Corey Johnson, the apartments in the superpowers "are being sold to foreign investors, who have tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars, who are not making this their primary home." Central Park receives 40 million visitors annually. "New Yorkers Protest Long Shadows Cast By New Skyscrapers" (NPR)

Categories: The Essentials

This Day in Blogging History: Security-corporate complex owns America; Lawyers on why everyone hates DRM; Open letter to crackhead

10 hours 23 min ago

One year ago today
The takeover of the US by the security-corporate complex: Some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States. ... An estimated 854,000 people, nearly 1.5 times as many people as live in Washington, D.C., hold top-secret security clearances.

Five years ago today
Lawyer podcast on "Everyone Hates DRM": The Intellectual Property Colloquium, a podcast for lawyers, has a one-hour show up about the reasons that DRM is the most reviled consumer technology in the market today.

Ten years ago today
Open letter to crackhead: They explained to me that "people" - I use the term loosely here - like you break off the tops of spark plugs and use the porcelain tubes to smoke crack. As an engineer and former MacGyver fan, in a way I think this is kind of cool. But then I remember that I just paid $100 for YOUR crackpipes, and I get angry again.

Categories: The Essentials

Defiant rancher in Nevada beloved by militia groups is a horrible racist, surprising approximately nobody

10 hours 50 min ago

Rancher Cliven Bundy at his home in Bunkerville, Nevada. (Jim Urquhart/Reuters)

Ladies and gentlemen, meet American hero Cliven Bundy, as seen on video: “I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” he said. Mr. Bundy recalled driving past a public-housing project in North Las Vegas, “and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids — and there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch — they didn’t have nothing to do. They didn’t have nothing for their kids to do. They didn’t have nothing for their young girls to do.

“And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?” he asked. “They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.”

Read Adam Nagourney's report for the New York Times.

Previous Boing Boing post: "The most mindblowing photograph to emerge from the Nevada BLM/white militia standoff."

His sympathizers include dozens of militia members, many carrying weapons. (Jim Urquhart/Reuters)

Categories: The Essentials

The internet is a CIA project, says Vladimir Putin

11 hours 21 sec ago

Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin holds a cup, 2010. REUTERS/Ria Novosti/Alexei Druzhinin.

Speaking today at a media forum in St. Petersburg, Russian president Vladimir Putin said the Internet began as a "CIA project," and that "is still developing as such." Russia must "fight for its interests" online, to resist US political and military control. From AP: A Russian blogger complained to Putin that foreign websites and Yandex, the web search engine which is bigger in Russia than Google, are storing information on servers abroad, which could be undermining Russia's security. In his reply, Putin mentioned unspecified pressure that was exerted on Yandex in its early years and chided the company for its registration in the Netherlands "not only for tax reasons but for other considerations, too."

Categories: The Essentials

Great Moments in Pedantry: Fact-checking "Don't Fear the Reaper"

11 hours 21 min ago

Valentine is done
Here, but now they're gone
Romeo and Juliet
Are together in eternity (Romeo and Juliet)
Forty-thousand men and women every day (Like Romeo and Juliet)
Forty-thousand men and women every day (Redefine happiness)
Another forty-thousand coming every day (We can be like they are)
Come on, baby (Don't fear the reaper)

Yesterday, on the way to the airport, I heard this on the radio and thought, "Huh. I wonder if Blue Oyster Cult actually looked up the daily global death rate when they were writing this?"

I can now pretty confidently report that, no, they did not. I suppose this is what comes from writing songs before the birth of the Internet. And, also, from not being anal retentive.

How many people die every day? Obviously, this differs widely from day to day and year to year. Most of the time, when people talk about "how many people die every day" they're talking about taking rough estimate of how many people die every year and dividing that by 365. I'd be perfectly happy to let Blue Oyster Cult do this, because it would be a little ridiculous to sing, "x number of men and women on July 15th, 1976", or whatever. Averaging it out would have been fine, so let's assume that's what we're doing.

According to the World Health Organization, around 54.5 million people die annually. Which makes the "daily death rate" roughly 149,000. Of course, those are the current numbers. To be fair to Blue Oyster Cult, I found the death rate from 1976 (with the help of my friend Stephen McNeil). At the time "Don't Fear the Reaper" was released, the world population 4.1 billion, with a death rate 12.5/1000, which comes out to 140,000 per day. So the bad news is that Blue Oyster Cult is way off in their estimation of the death rate. But the good news is that you could quite easily change the lyrics to say "140,000 coming every day" and not screw with the meter too much.

Now, in talking about this on the Internet, I came across a couple of interesting attempts to exonerate BOC. The first, from the aforementioned Mr. McNeil, points out that the lyrics say "men and women". So Stephen's argument is that, to get an accurate estimate in line with what BOC intended, you have to subtract infant and child mortality from the total death rate. As he put it:

... knock out 6k/day infant mortality (birth rate 31/1000, inf mort 16.5/1000 births), same again for child mortality maybe? So about 128k/day. Only off by half an order of magnitude, correct within Fermi estimation.

Another possibility, Twitter user Erwin suggests that the BOC was only referring to the daily deaths of lovers. That's an interesting theory, but, as far as I can tell, there's no effective way to fact check it because nobody tracks that particular statistic — other than, perhaps, the Blue Oyster Cult, themselves. That said, if it were just a measurement of the deaths of lovers, I might wonder whether 40,000 a day was too high. How many pairs of lovers could actually be dying together every day?

Finally, my friend Ross Pfund offered another theory: The 40,000 men and women every day is actually a measurement of the number of marriages. He is just wrong. Wrong, like Blue Oyster Cult is wrong.

Image: "Grim Reaper From Guitar Hero - Halloween (2006)" by Rob Boudon via Flikr

Categories: The Essentials

JOHN WILCOCK: When Lenny Bruce Stayed at My Apartment

11 hours 59 min ago
Read the first installment of LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, LENNY BRUCE

View previous installments of the John Wilcock comic here and here.

Excerpt of John's original column on this experience:

A Change of Shirts with Lenny Bruce
June, 1961, The Village Voice

By John Wilcock

In my opinion, Lenny Bruce is the most perceptive of today's satiric commentators, and he and his audience swing together in a rarely achieved harmony. Lenny just completed a $10,000 engagement at the Village Vanguard, and he's been staying at my place, on and off. I managed to persuade him to answer a batch of questions. He doesn't much care for interviews, so I fired the questions at him one night between shows, put some paper into my typewriter, and recorded his answers verbatim as he shouted them to me while changing his shirt and taking a shave.

How do you feel about working in night clubs?

Naturally the basic motivation of working is profit. A one-nighter pays me what I can make in a week doing 14 shows in seven days. But the whole thing is that I don't develop as much at a concert: I get lazy. Because of ego I want to always get applause. I want to make the waiters laugh. Sometimes I have fantasies in which a customer would say: "He's so clever and inventive," and the waiter would reply: "He's not so inventive. He made that up two weeks ago and he's been saying it every night since."

What sort of things/people bug you the most? Apart from interviews?

Interviews upset me but don't bug me. Tonight I had a woman in the audience with hysterical laughter. As soon as I heard it I knew it would make the audience uncomfortable. I listen to the audience more than they listen to me. Sure enough, they heard it after the fourth or fifth time and the people around her began to get uncomfortable and it spread. Finally somebody told her to shut up and she started crying, which I knew would happen from the first. For humor to be effective the audience must be very relaxed, and anything that interferes with that relaxation bugs me. Anything loud upsets me. Loud laughter, loud applause. To me it projects humility. (Laughs) I'm frightened; that's what it is.

Is there a subject you wouldn't consider talking about in your act on the grounds of bad taste or anything else?

Yes. Subjects that would offend me because they are trite; that have been exploited too many times. Mother-in-law jokes.

Have you ever done any mother-in-law jokes?

Yes, if they are what I consider bizarre or different. For example, Time magazine beseeched Ralph Gleason to use his influence on me so the first-time question in his interview was: "What do you attribute your divorce to?" So I tried to think of the tritest area and I came up with: "My mother-in-law broke up my marriage." "Your mother-in-law?! What happened?" "One day my wife came home early from work and found us in bed together." "In bed together? With your own mother-in-law? Why that's...you're a pervert!" "Why?" I said. "It was her mother, not mine."

What percentage of your act changes from one show to the next?

Since I have a tremendous backlog, I could do a different show, an extremely different show, every night for about a week, but I wouldn't be creating anything new; I'd just be recalling bits I had already done. From the creative aspect, if I do two shows a night, at the end of the week I've created a new 15-minute bit.

What's a 15-minute bit worth on today's market?

Today? About $1500 - $2000.

How do you calculate that?

What comedy writers charge -- a television bit, stand-up spot for the Sullivan show, Jack Paar -- an 8-minute bit. The kind of a guy who's an actor-comedian -- performs well but does not create -- buys bits, does them until other, smaller actor-comedian types steal them or he's overexposed the bit. An 8-minute bit would cost roughly $750 - $1000.

What do you do on nights when you don't feel funny?

I bomb.

What do you do to get funny enough to do your act?

What I will do is bare my soul and through this cathartic method achieve humor.

What writers impress you the most, or have influenced you?

Evelyn Waugh, Terry Southern ("The Magic Christian"), and Henry Miller -- thanks to John Wilcock's extensive Tijuana library.

Actors, actresses?

No. I love them - W.C. Fields, John Garfield, Jimmy Dean, whom I loved to madness, Eisenhower. But they haven't influenced me.

Do you have recurring dreams?

I have very strange dreams. I'm an egomaniac as it is, and then to have a dream like I had recently that smacked of excellent construction, a beginning, a them, and a sensible end...the dream: I shot somebody with a .22 rifle and killed him. I don't remember the killing; it seems somehow that as the dream faded in I was in court standing before the judge and he was sentencing me. And he gave me a choice of spending five years in the penitentiary with no chance of parole -- the full five years -- or be exiled to Alaska. And that's it. Is that strange? I don't know what Alaska even looked like. Those tall bears; in my dream they were standing up straight.

Lenny, do you have any final message for the world?

Yes. Girls who are celibate wouldn't be that way long if they could only sell a bit.

Categories: The Essentials

Drunk 18 year old girl rushed to hospital from Canadian PM Stephen Harper's residence

12 hours 23 min ago

An unnamed, drunk 18-year-old girl was taken to the hospital by ambulance from Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's official residence. The RCMP confirmed the basic facts of the story and stated that she was not a member of the Harper family. PM Harper has two teenage children, including a son who is nearly 18. The Harper regime has refused to comment on the story at all, prompting criticism from reporters about the PM's unwillingness to "address an issue every parent of teens struggle with" and instead going "into information lockdown." Glen McGregor from the Ottawa Citizen has lots more about this, including the allegation that the drunk teen had been swimming in the PM's pool.

‘Intoxicated’ 18-year-old girl reportedly rushed to hospital from Prime Minister Harper’s residence (via Reddit)

Categories: The Essentials

New mineral discovered in Australia

13 hours 50 min ago
Putnisite is a newly discovered purple mineral that, unlike the many minerals found each year, is not closely related to already-known minerals.

Categories: The Essentials
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