[Plura-list] Tensegrity at home; I'm doing a livecast today for Podapalooza; The vernacular signage of the pandemic; A deflationary pandemic

Cory Doctorow doctorow at craphound.com
Sat Apr 25 12:01:41 EDT 2020

*** Reminder! I'm doing a livecast today for the Podapalooza festival at
11AM Pacific/2PM Eastern: https://www.podapalooza.org/ ***

Today's links

* Tensegrity at home: Everyday sorcery.

* I'm doing a livecast today for Podapalooza: Someone comes to Zoom,
someone leaves Zoom.

* The vernacular signage of the pandemic: Frankfurt and beyond.

* A deflationary pandemic: Money printer go fzzzt.

* Makers in a time of pandemic: Redundancy isn't waste, it's resilience.

* Send Pics: A cyberheist YA novel about sextortion.

* This day in history: 2005, 2015, 2019

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


🍒 Tensegrity at home

I love "tensegrity" - Buckminster Fuller's structures that use tension,
not compression, to support loads. You may have seen this amazing,
nigh-sorcerous tensegrity Lego build that Jason Kottke recently highlighted.


Writing in Wired, Rhett Allain offers an accessible, plain-language
explanation for how tensegrity works, along with guidance for
improvising your own tensegrity projects at home.


"Whereas an ordinary table stays up because the tabletop pushes down
with the weight of gravity on some rigid legs, this one is held together
by a balance of forces pulling in different directions. Those strings on
the left are actually pulling up!"


🍒 I'm doing a livecast today for Podapalooza

Today is the second day of the Podapalooza virtual podcasting festival!
It launched yesterday with the first hour of my new reading of my 2009
novel "Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town."


It's a novel about a guy who is obsessed with building a citywide, free
wireless network - whose parents happen to be a mountain and a washing
machine. Gene Wolf (RIP) called it "a glorious book unlike any book
you've read."


As part of the festival, I'm doing a live Q&A; today at 11AM Pacific/2PM
Eastern. The tickets are pay-what-you-can, and the funds go to benefit
Give Directly, which makes direct cash-transfers to families in dire
straits due to coronavirus.

If you want a superb, professional reading of the novel, the official
audiobook is amazing, read by Bronson Pinchot. You can buy it anywhere
audiobooks are sold (except Audible, who refuse to carry my work because
it's DRM-free), or direct from me:



🍒 The vernacular signage of the pandemic

I have always been fascinated with public signage; the signs we post are
a window into what we secretly think that other people don't know or
understand. I've posted literally thousands of pictures of signs from
all over the world.


The pandemic has ushered in a golden age of signage, with people pressed
to create vernacular, often hand-lettered (or home-printed) signage to
announce closures or demand attention to public health measures.

Philipp Lenssen has been documenting the covid signage in Frankfurt and
has posted 800+ photos under permissive licenses permitting commercial


He'd like to expand the collection. If you have pics you'd like him to
add, email philipp.lenssen at gmail.com.


🍒 A deflationary pandemic

As central banks around the world fire up the money printers, it's
natural to worry that the pandemic will trigger runaway inflation.

But as MIT economist Olivier Blanchard writes in Vox EU, there's a much
larger risk of *de*flation.


After all, unemployment is skyrocketing, anyone with money is halting
all discretionary spending to save for an uncertain future, and even if
they wanted to spend, there's no open stores to spend *in*.

After the pandemic, our collective trauma and financial anxiety could
usher in a new era of saving and debt-aversion, halting the debt-fuelled
consumer spending that has sustained much of the world's economy for the
past 40 years.

Blanchard makes a good case that we should be worried about deflation,
though he does acknowledge that we're in a "nonstandard environment"
where it's hard to predict how the economy will move.

He posits at least one hyperinflationary scenario, in which we see a
spike in private debt, larger than the 20-30% already projected; a large
increase in the neutral rate; and "fiscal dominance of monetary policy."

This last is what happens when the Fed refuses to raise rates because of
political pressure from overleveraged debtors who can't afford higher
interest, creating "overheating and inflation."

Blanchard says that this scenario only occurs if three low-probability
events all occur, and thus the overall outcome is *very* unlikely.


🍒 Makers in a time of pandemic

A funny thing happened on the way to the pandemic. Neoliberalism's
imperative to look only at how things work (not how they fail) created
lean, overstretched supply chains that allowed investors to extract huge
surpluses from companies (AKA: why everything is made in China).

But even as distributed, local productive capacities around the world
were being dismantled (redundancy != inefficiency), the maker movement
was on the rise, expressing a kind of inchoate urge to be able to make,
fix and improve things close to home.


And today, the gaps in the supply chain are being filled by the makers
inspired by Make Magazine, Maker Faire, and the new DIY movement.

I've long been fascinated by the way that modern makerism diverges from
the old DIY/hobbyist movement of the Modern Mechanix era. The key
difference is networked collaboration: if I have a project idea or
question, I can easily locate similar projects for inspiration.

Then I can ask questions and solicit suggestions from ad-hoc communities
clustered around projects similar to mine; the electronic, written
nature of these brainstorming sessions means that they form a permanent
palipmsest that future makers can refer to.

In addition to shopcraft and praxis spreading shoulder-to-shoulder in
workshops (which happens in makerspaces, obvs), there's this invisible,
massive continuous knowledge-transfer happening across time and space,
thanks to networks.

Today, we see that happening at speed, as plans, techniques, sources and
improvements fly around the world at network speed, with makers taking
on both production and maintenance of medical and safety equipment.

Meanwhile, the medtech companies that treated service, parts, schematics
and technical documentation as trade-secrets that secured a proprietary
market advantage have taken a massive beating as the failings of this
model were made manifest.


The pressure has taken its toll: the biggest ventilator companies in the
world are opening up their document repositories to enable local repair
and maintenance.


It's by no means complete, but it's a start. And in the meanwhile,
guerilla efforts like Ifixit's repository of med-tech service manuals
and documentation are filling in the gaps.



🍒 Send Pics

I've been a fan of Lauren McLaughin's writing since her outstanding
debut novel, Cycler, an allegorical YA sf novel about a young woman who
turns into a boy for 5 days out of 28:


McLaughlin has written in so many modes since, and done so well with
each. She reminds me of Kathe Koja or Neil Gaiman, a writer of
incredible versatility who writes for kids and adults with equal
facility, crossing back and forth from sf to mimetic fiction to fantsy.

Her new novel is superb: SEND PICS is a cyber-heist book whose mechanics
turn on the same kind of taut smart-versus-outsmart that made John
Rogers's Leverage such a treat.


But what makes SEND PICS really incredible is how it marries that
heist-novel tension with deadly serious subject matter: it's a book
about a young woman who is drugged, sexually assaulted, and then
extorted by her abuser.

McLaughlin's balancing act between these two modes shows off that rare,
writerly versatility: this is a book that's on the one hand deadly
serious, and on the other hand, a plot-driven romp, and it manages this
feat without trivializing its subject or sacrificing its gusto.

On the way, SEND PICS connect patriarchy with inequality, white
supremacy, and allyship. It's a gorgeous story of beautiful friendships,
a tight tale of justice and comeuppance, and a technothriller of great



🍒 This day in history

#15yrsago BBC: DRM makes music customers mad

#15yrsago Architectures of Control: DRM in hardware

#15yrsago IP and the Digital Divide

#5yrsago Kansas kid corrects anti-drug teacher, cops raid his house

#1yrago Telcoms lobbyists oppose ban on throttling firefighters'
internet during wildfires

#1yrago "Black hat" companies sell services to get products featured and
upranked on Amazon

#1yrago Mozilla's Internet Health Report: discriminatory AI, surveilling
smart cities, ad-tech https://internethealthreport.org/2019/

#1yrago Angered by the No-More-AOCs rule, 31 colleges' Young Democrats
boycott the DCCC

#1yrago A 40cm-square patch that renders you invisible to
person-detecting AIs https://arxiv.org/abs/1904.08653

#1yrago Court case seeks to clarify that photographers don't need
permission to publish pictures that incidentally capture public works of

#1yrago Older Americans are working beyond retirement age at levels not
seen since 1962

#1yrago Vulnerabilities in GPS fleet-tracking tools let attackers track
and immobilize cars en masse


🍒 Colophon

Today's top sources:

Currently writing: My next novel, "The Lost Cause," a post-GND novel
about truth and reconciliation. Yesterday's progress: 756 words (8161

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

Latest podcast: Podcast swap: Wil Wheaton on Little

Upcoming appearances:

* Apr 25: Podapalooza https://www.podapalooza.org/live

* Apr 29: Reset Everything https://reseteverything.events/

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

"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

This work licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license.
That means you can use it any way you like, including commerically,
provided that you attribute it to me, Cory Doctorow, and include a link
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*When life gives you SARS, you make sarsaparilla* -Joey "Accordion Guy"

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