My Annual Parade o’ Peeps


I miss many things about being the Editorial Director for Maker Media. One of these would be the annual Peeps round-up I did on the MAKE website every year. No, seriously. I have something of an unhealthy fascination with these unholy food-colored, sugar-coated marshmallow death wads. And by the number of bizarre things that people choose to do with them (and brag about over the internet), I am not alone. I understand they can also be eaten.

Here are links to several of my previous-year Peeps pieces:

2013′s Annual Peeps Roundup
2010′s Peeps Parade
How to Make Peepshi = Peeps Sushi

Collages110From The Dissolving Peeps Experiment.

Peeps in a vacuum.

explodypeep_2Explody Peeps high-speed photography.

And fresh as a new rack o’ Peeps for 2014, here’s a video of a red-hot ball of nickel having its way with some Peeps. I can smell the toasted marshmallow from here.

My First Wink Books Review!


Woo-hoo! My first WINK review is live. So thrilled to be involved in this project.

For my first book, I reviewed the amazing Cartographies of Time, by Anthony Grafton and Daniel Rosenberg:

Cartographies of Time is literally groovy. As you hold it in your hands, the horizontal corrugations in the cover boards constantly and literally impress you with the subject of the book: the line as the most persistent device for representing notions of time. This gorgeous tome is the first history of graphical representations of time, from the 15th century to the present, as practiced in Europe and the United States. The book is brimming with beautiful photos with deep captions and even deeper expository text.

Look for my reviews twice a month, likely every 15th and 28th.

The “Jargon Watch” Terms That Stuck with Me


For Borg Like Me, I thought it would be fun to look through the entire corpus of my 12 years of editing Wired’s “Jargon Watch” column and identify the terms that actually become a part of my everyday vocabulary. Here are 23 terms that I still use on a fairly regular basis.

Backgrounding: The practice of not giving someone your full attention while multitasking. Occurs frequently during phone conversations when one party is reading email or surfing the Net. Dead giveaways; quiet typing, monotoned and equally-spaced “Uh-huh…uh-huh.”

Bit Flip: A 180-degree personality change. “Jim did a major bit flip and became a born-again Christian.”

Bio-break: Techie euphemism for using the toilet.

Blamestorming: Sitting around in a group discussing why a deadline was missed, or why a project failed, and who was responsible.

Blow My Buffer: Euphemism for spacing out or losing one’s train of thought. Similarly, “blowing your buffer” occurs when the person you’re speaking with won’t let you get a word in edgewise or has just said something so astonishing that your train of thought gets derailed. “Damn, I just blew my buffer!”

Brain Fart: A byproduct of a bloated mind producing information effortlessly. A burst of useful information. “I know you’re busy on the Microsoft story, but could you give us a brain fart on the Mitnik bust?” Variation of old hacker slang that had more negative connotations.

Egosurfing: Scanning search engines, articles, or book indexes looking for mentions of your own name.

Frankenedit: A gruesome job of editing a writer’s work by a hurried editor. The frankenedited piece is usually returned with a note asking the writer to suture it back together to breath life back into it (by the next morning).

Geekosphere: The area surrounding one’s computer where trinkets, personal mementos, toys, and “monitor pets” are displayed. A place where computer geeks show their “colors.”

Going Cyrillic: When a graphical display starts to glitch out, to fail and to display garbage. “This thing just went Cyrillic on me!”

Hand Salsa: The slimy substance invariably left on game controllers after a round of high-stress gaming. “Sure you can play, if you don’t mind the hand salsa.”

Floodgaters: Individuals who send email or text messages, and after receiving only a short, slightly favorable response, begin flooding you with multiple messages of little or no interest.

Interrupt-Driven: Used to describe someone who moves through the workday responding to a series of interruptions rather than the work goals originally set.

PEBCAK: Tech support/hacker shorthand for “Problem Exists Between Chair And Keyboard.” A way of indicating that there’s nothing wrong with the computer – it’s the user who’s clueless.

Percussive Maintenance: The fine art of whacking the crap out of an electronic device to get it to work again.

Seagull Manager: A superior who flies in, makes a lot of noise, shits all over everything, and then leaves.

Serendipity Search: An Internet search in which you end up finding interesting and valuable things that have nothing to do with your original search. Searching willy-nilly. “I found this really cool site on Tiki collecting during an hour-long serendipity search.”

Shoulder Surfing: Looking over someone’s shoulder to steal his or her credit card or phone card number or computer password.

Vampire Time (VT): A schedule in which one sleeps all day and then haunts clubs, coffee houses, or works all night until dawn. Refers to writers, artists, slackers, club kids, and other bohemian types who rarely see daylight.

Whack-a-Mole: The “game” one has to play to quickly close interstitial ads and other pop-up windows on some commercial websites. These pages will sometimes generate new windows every time you close a previous one, creating a situation similar to the popular arcade game Whack-a-Mole.

Warnock’s Dilemma:
The act of deciding whether the lack of response to a comment in an online discussion is because of its brilliance (i.e. there’s nothing to add) or because of its stupidity (it doesn’t deserve comment). Named after Brian Warnock, who first described the condition on a Perl mailing list.

YMMV: (Your Mileage May Vary) A popular qualifier simple meaning: “The outcome may be different under different conditions.” Often used in a humorous way: “This freeware program worked fine on my machine, but YMMV.”

Yuppie Food Coupons: The ubiquitous $20 bills spit out of ATMs everywhere. Often used when trying to split the bill after a meal: “Everyone owes $8, but all we have are yuppie food coupons.”

Pre-order Borg Like Me here.

Modeling Tips Roundup on MAKE


I bumped into this piece on MAKE today while looking something up and thought it was worth sharing — a decent little forgotten gem for anyone who enjoys any kind of scale modeling, tabletop game modeling, and the like.

What Others Are Saying About “Gareth’s Tips on Sucks-Less Writing”


“…[L]oaded with excellent advice for writers. I’ve learned a great deal about writing and editing from Gareth. He’s a terrific writer and a terrific teacher.”
- Mark Frauenfelder, Boing Boing

“…[A] handy guide for writers of all kinds… There is a lot of advice floating around…Gareth’s Tips brings together some of the best.”
- Roy Christopher

Don’t forget to get your own copy of Gareth’s Tips on Sucks-Less Writing. It’s US$6 ppd US/CND and $9 elsewhere. Each book comes inscribed by me with my own custom-designed rubber stamps. The envelope is also decorated with custom stamps. To order, you can use PayPal or Amazon Payments and send the payment to Ping me for details on sending a check.

My Research Residency on the Maker Movement


I started my Provisions Library Research Residency at George Mason University yesterday. For the next 3 weeks, I’ll be researching the maker movement. Is it really a “movement”? What does that mean, exactly? How large is its reach? What areas of education, technology, business, local community, and the culture at large is it touching, and to what extent? How does it compare to other related historical movements and DIY trends like the Arts & Crafts movement, post-WWII home DIY, 60s countercultural DIY, punk DIY, etc.? What are possible/likely future trajectories?

Besides many usual suspects within the maker movement, I want to talk to historians of technology, economists, educators, cultural anthropologists, and others who might provide interesting perspectives. I’ll be presenting a talk at the end of the residency and might even do something more right-brainy, like some sort of event at an art gallery.

If you have some input into all of this, people you think I should talk to, resources I should track down, please let me know.

Should be a fun and challenging project.

Sneak Peek at Traveling Device Book (Including My Foreword)




The comics website Major Spoilers has posted a sneak peek of Device Volume 3, the latest in a series of gorgeous found-object and post-industrial surrealism art books from Device Gallery. This one is called Traveling Device and covers train, planes, automobiles, rocket ships, and strange inexplicable creature-vehicles from the Id. I’ve written the forewords to all three volumes. You can even read my foreword here — if you have a magnifying glass. Congrats to Greg and Amy Brotherton and all of the artists featured herein.

BTW: Greg Brotherton, co-owner of Device Gallery and designer/co-creator of this book, is one of the artist whose work illustrates my book, Borg Like Me, and he’s designing my cover. The boy seriously rocks!

First Review of Gareth’s Tips on Sucks-Less Writing


Cool, it’s the first mini-review of Gareth’s Tips on Sucks-Less Writing, (from Roy Christopher’s blog):

Gareth’s Tips on Sucks-Less Writing (Sparks of Fire Press, 2013), an excerpt from Gareth Branwyn‘s forthcoming book, Borg Like Me, & Other Tales of Art, Eros, and Embedded Systems (Sparks of Fire Press, 2014), is a handy guide for writers of all kinds. First compiled on the eve of blogging craze 15 years ago, Gareth has continued to update his tips in the meantime. Because of its ever-updating status, he calls it “a work in perpetual beta.”

The subtitle to Gareth’s Tips is “Or, Everything I Know About Writing, I Boosted from Other Writers and Editors.” Having compiled a couple of my own sets of writing guidelines, I can totally relate. Gareth taps wordsmiths and editor-types like Mark Frauenfelder (bOING bOING, WIRED, MAKE, etc.), Mike Gunderoy (Factsheet Five), Rudy Rucker (duh), Anne Lamott (Bird by Bird), Connie Hale (Sin and Syntax), and Warren Ellis’s gonzo Transmetropolitan protagonist, Spider Jerusalem (pictured on the cover). Gareth’s also been doing this word-thing himself for over 30 years (at Mondo 2000, WIRED, MAKE, and bOING bOING—when it was still a print zine!), so he knows there are no rigid rules for writing, but that there is a lot of advice floating around—some of which can help guide you to better prose. Gareth’s Tips brings together some of the best.

Don’t know about Gareth’s Tips? It’s a newly expanded version of my turn-of-century collection of writer’s tips, put together for all of the new bloggers joining the ranks of cyberspace scriveners. It’s a 20-page booklet, with a lovely color cover. Each one comes in a custom-stamped Sparks of Fire Press envelope and is rubber stamped and inscribed by me inside. $6 postpaid (US and CND), $9 elsewhere. You can order it on the Sparks of Fire Press site, or send a Paypal or Amazon Payment to Ping me about cutting a check.

I Join Wink Books as a Contributor!


wink-remarkableI am thrilled to announce that I’m joining the illustrious company of Carla Sinclair, Mark Frauenfelder, and Kevin Kelly as a regular contributor to their new WINK book review site. I love the idea behind the site (reviewing only books that are best served by print — celebrating the unique qualities of analog publishing in an increasingly digital world). I’m so excited to be a part of this project.

If you have recommendations for coffee table books, pop-up books, comic books, artist books, outsized books — books that are best experienced in print or can only be experienced in print — please chime in via the comments below.

[Above image: From Mark Frauenfelder's review of The Hole by Øyvind Torseter]

Wink Book Review Site Launched by Co-Founders of Wired and Boing Boing


I am so tickled by the announcement today of this new website by my old cohort at Boing Boing, Mark Frauenfelder and Carla Sinclair, and Kevin Kelly, formerly of Wired and now running the Cool Tools site (with Mark). Wink is being produced under the auspices of Cool Tool. The premise is why-didn’t-I-think-of-that brilliant. Every day, one book will be reviewed. But not just any book. The site will focus on books that really NEED to be in print, books that exploit the medium in some special way, books that are arguably a better experience in physical form, books that are pieces of art in and of themselves — from pop-up books, to coffee table tomes, to lay-flat/get dirty benchtop how-to guides — those are what Wink will be covering. The design of the site is smart, too. They launched with a mosaic of 15 titles on their home page. Every weekday, a new title will bump a book over one. So each book will get 15 days of front page real estate.

The moment I saw the announcement this morning, I immediately thought of 5-6 books suitable for “Winkdom.” It’s a fun game to play, thinking about what books really need to be in print to be fully appreciated. Can’t wait to see how this site evolves. Being someone who’ll forever be a fan of books and book art, I’m all for celebrating the unique expressions of the medium.

Kudos to Carla, Mark, and Kevin!