[Plura-list] Pickled 2001 computer store, A farewell to APIs, Machine learning model performs butthole recognition, Covid loteria cards, California's fiber for all bill

Cory Doctorow doctorow at craphound.com
Tue Apr 7 11:11:32 EDT 2020

Reminder! I'm appearing on Short Story Club tonight at 530PM Pacific to
discuss my story "Masque of the Red Death." RSVP here:

Today's links

* Pickled 2001 computer store: Deadstock ahoy!

* A farewell to APIs: Greed, spam and entropy killed mashups.

* Machine learning model performs butthole recognition: Peak Internet of

* Covid loteria cards: Cabronavirus.

* California's fiber for all bill: Tell your senator to support SB1130.

* 1978 Doonesbury stereotype: Come for the Indochina political humor,
stay for the printer's lore.

* LA crime plummets: Down 23% (domestic violence is down 11%).

* US stimulus is one week's cash: Deflation ahoy.

* Private equity blinks on cuts to health workers' wages: Speeding up
slow destruction makes it impossible to ignore.

* Virtual greenscreen: Incredible computer science paper from the 2020
IEEE Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition.

* Landlord changes church's locks: The pastor of Cross Culture Christian
Center in Lodi, CA refused to stop holding services.

* This day in history: 2010, 2019

* Colophon: Recent publications, upcoming appearances, current writing
projects, current reading

Pickled 2001 computer store (permalink)

This computer store has been sitting derelict since 2001, when the
store's owner – who also owned the strip mall it was embedded in – went

J got some incredibly evocative photos through the glass:


Apparently the owner is 76, and there's talk of contacting him to gain
access and catalog the incredible trove of high-tech deadstock.


There's also a convenient Imgur set of the pix:


A farewell to APIs (permalink)

In this sweet, sad, fascinating video, Tom Scott delivers a potted
history of the API and the role it played in the rise and rise of Web
2.0: the cooperative, mashed up web that was uniquely hospitable to the
creative, the odd and the idiosyncratic.


Obviously, that web is largely gone, replaced by the web of "five giant
services filled with screenshots of text from the other four."


Scott's video is remarkable especially for the way he captures the
excitement and playfulness of that web — and the way it was slowly
enclosed, strangled, and then annihilated by the race to block
adblockers and the rise of spammers and scumbags.

But it ends on a hopeful note — a hymn to beating back entropy. Harlan
Ellison was a complicated and difficult figure, but I was always struck
by his quote: "I am anti-entropy, but foresquare for chaos."


Machine learning model performs butthole recognition (permalink)

A group led by Stanford med researchers have just published a paper
describing a data-collecting "precision health smart toilet," which uses
an array of four cameras, some of which do user-identification based on
butthole photography ("analprinting").


The paper describes units that can be retrofitted to existing toilets
for urinalysis, uroflowmetry, and stool analysis. They trained a machine
learning model to characterize unhealthy stools, based on manual
labeling by a pair of coloproctologists.


You may ask yourself, why did they invent analprinting and install a
dedicated butthole-cam? Obvs because sometimes people forget to flush,
and then someone else flushes, and since the fingerprint scanner is in
the flush-handle, there was a possibility of poop misattribution.

Thus: "A scanner was installed to record a short video clip of the
user's anus." A study of test users' anal morphology "provided a
reasonable distinction of the participants by analysing their analprint."

(Image: Paul Scott, CC BY-SA)

Covid loteria cards (permalink)

I love Rafael "Pinche Raf" Gonzales Jr's Covid-themed loteria cards,
which you can get as tees, magnets, stickers, etc on Threadless:


California's fiber for all bill (permalink)

This world's greatest crises only exist because they are in slow motion:
the carceral state, capitalism's health-care rationing, inequality, the
manifest incompetence of the private sector in providing broadband. They
are so slow that they are tolerable in the moment.

Covid speeds all that up. We get a decade's worth of privatized medicine
shittiness in a week, a year's worth of broadband failure in the same

I mean, if there was ever a moment at which the case for treating fiber
as a utility was more obvious…

Enter Senator Lena Gonzalez's California Fiber for All bill, SB1130:


It modernizes the California Advanced Services Fund, updating the
definition of
"broadband" from DSL speeds to real, 21st-century high speeds.

Fiber speeds.

Any broadband network provided by the state will be required to be
high-speed, and the companies that use it will required to have open
access rules that promote competition.

As Ernesto Falcon writes, the standards for CASF are laughably,
obviously terrible. The fund has a mere $300m but hasn't managed to
spend it, because it's almost impossible to find a California community
that qualifies as "underserved" by its criteria.

Covid has laid bare how dependent we are on broadband to carry on our
day-to-day lives, how important it is to our education and employment
and family lives and romantic lives and civil lives and political lives.

We were always this dependent on broadband, but Covid speeds things up.

If you're a Californian, sign this petition and tell your state senator
to stand up for modern broadband.


1978 Doonesbury stereotype (permalink)

I love Glenn Fleishman's photo of this May 1978 Doonesbury stereotype,
along with the accompanying printer's lore ("That plate would be put
under pressure with a fresh piece of dry flong to produce the first mold.")

Flong: "a temporary negative mould made of a forme of set type, in order
to cast a metal stereotype which can be used in a rotary press. The
process is called stereotyping."


Not to be confused with:

Flong: "Slang term for thong, perhaps in reference to a flesh-coloured
flong, but can be used to refer to any thong."


And here's the strip as it ran on March 18, 1978.


LA crime plummets (permalink)

The perfect book for this moment is Rebecca Solnit's "A Paradise Built
in Hell," a meticulously researched history of disasters that uses
primary sources to prove that in times of crisis, people help one
another – rather than looting and pillaging.


Solnit also documents the phenomenon of "elite panic," the certainty
among plutes that the poors are coming to eat them, prompting
pre-emptive strikes against the "hordes" before they materialize.

This was the premise behind my 2017 novel Walkaway.


During the pandemic, LA has seen a 23% drop in crime compared to the
same period last year – that includes an 11% drop in family violence crime.


(Hey, fellow Angelenos, don't buy groceries in person this weekend if
you can help it!)

US stimulus is one week's cash (permalink)

The US coronavirus stimulus sounds like a big cash injection, but as
Umair Haque points out, the cash going to small businesses and families
amounts to about one week's worth of median income.


The crisis is already four times longer than that, depending on which
city you live in. The end is not in sight.

Starving the US economy of cash now will destroy it: "It isn't quick,
large, or simple enough to buoy confidence — and so people are beginning
tp panic."

Economic depressions are crises of confidence. The economy seizes up
when people don't believe that they can count on future income and so
they stop spending what they have.

Congress's timidity and impulse to bureaucratic means-testing do not
inspire confidence in 10,000,000 Americans who filed for unemployment –
6% of the labor force in two weeks (at that rate, you get to 24%
unemployment in mere weeks).

Haque: "In the end, when they write the books, I'm confident they'll say
this. The American government supported people and business for one
week. Just one week. Amidst an epic, historic crisis which was to last

"Money at this scale is a social fiction. The government can support the
economy for as long as it takes. That doesn't plunge a society into
'debt.' It's not money we 'borrow' from China. We are lending it to
ourselves. We can cancel the debt afterwards without consequence."

"There won't be 'inflation.' What there will be is massive deflation if
none of the above happens. All those millions filing for unemployment?
That means wages fall massively, and prices follow, too."

Private equity blinks on cuts to health workers' wages (permalink)

America's healthcare sector is dominated by private equity firms, which
are running the PE playbook on a human essential: load companies with
debt, sell off assets, fuck over workers, deliver worse service, walk
away from the ashes.


The pandemic is like a stop-motion video for slow crises. PE's looting
of the health care system has been a crisis for years, but it's been a
game of inches. Now, under pandemic, these too-slow-to-notice crises
accelerate and can't be ignored.


So the long-overdue outcry over PE's healthcare looting has finally
arrived, as people raise an alarm over cuts to frontline workers' pay.
The outrage is so loud, the specter of guillotines is so real, that
finally, PE companies are listening.


Alteon, the first PE-backed health company to announce cuts is backing
off of plans to cut front-line workers' salaries and taking money out of
execs' paychecks instead.


KKR and Blackstone's health companies haven't followed suit…yet.

They may be holding out frontline health workers' wages as hostages in
their bid to rake in billions in bailout money.


And of course, we can't fucking trust these psychopaths. The minute the
crisis distracts us from them, they'll start crushing doctors and nurses
again. Plutes gonna plute.

Virtual greenscreen (permalink)

This University of Washington entry into this year's IEEE Conference on
Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition conference is jaw-dropping:
realtime background substitution without greenscreens!


The footage is coming off of two smartphone cameras, and it's fully
documented in the accompanying paper.


It really puts Zoom's background switching in the shade. This is

Landlord changes church's locks (permalink)

The pastor of the Cross Culture Christian Center in Lodi, CA announced
that he would defy the San Joaquin County Health Department's shelter in
place order and hold services. So his landlord, Bethel Open Bible
Church, changed the locks on his church.


The pastor's name is Jon Duncan. He's hired lawyers from the National
Center for Law & Policy ("a conservative Christian nonprofit law
center") to represent him in his case against the county to re-open his
church and put his congregants and community at risk.

This day in history (permalink)

#10yrsago Draconian UK Digital Economy Bill passes: huge blow for
digital privacy, security, freedom

#1yrago The BLM's Burning Man environmental impact statement is
terrible, calls for drug searches, dumpsters, and a 19,000,000lb
concrete wall https://boingboing.net/2019/04/07/jersey-barriers-r-us.html

Colophon (permalink)

Today's top sources: Waxy (https://waxy.org/), Matt Webb
(http://interconnected.org/home/), Riven
(https://twitter.com/misosusanowa), Four Short Links
(https://www.oreilly.com/feed/four-short-links), Naked Capitalism
(https://nakedcapitalism.com/), Reddit (Reddit).

Currently writing: My next novel, "The Lost Cause," a post-GND novel
about truth and reconciliation.

Currently reading: I'm getting really into Anna Weiner's memoir about
tech, "Uncanny Valley" and Jo Walton's forthcoming novel "Or What You Will."

Latest podcast: The Jubilee: Fill Your Boots

Upcoming appearances:

* Short Story Club, April 7, 530PM Pacific https://www.shortstory.club/

Upcoming books: "Poesy the Monster Slayer" (Jul 2020), a picture book
about monsters, bedtime, gender, and kicking ass. Pre-order here:

(we're having a launch for it in Burbank on July 11 at Dark Delicacies
and you can get me AND Poesy to sign it and Dark Del will ship it to the
monster kids in your life in time for the release date).

"Attack Surface": The third Little Brother book, Oct 20, 2020.

"Little Brother/Homeland": A reissue omnibus edition with a new
introduction by Edward Snowden: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250774583

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When life gives you SARS, you make sarsaparilla -Joey "Accordion Guy"

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