I’ll be at Penguicon again this year (April 28–30).But instead of just sitting on a few panels and mooching a lot of free drinks, I wanted to do something extra special.So this year I’m spending the entire weekend building something extra special for you to experience and interact with—and for the Slinkies to finally be heard.
Won’t you join me—and the Slinkies—before it’s too late?
If the last–what, two weeks(!?!)–are any indication, it’s going to be a long four years.There are going to be plenty of set-backs and, more disheartening, plenty of near misses (the DeVos squeaker just now not the least of them). Progress is slow, because by design these wheels grind exceedingly fine.
It is easy to lose faith, so remember these five things:
Resistance works. As I write this, carefully vetted refugees are finding sanctuary here, the rights of LGBTQ federal workers have been preserved, the repeal of Obamacare has stalled, the great Federal Lands Rummage Sale is on hold—all things you accomplished with nothing but phone calls and poster-board signs.We don’t need to shed blood or set fires or take up arms; we are doing this with cellphones and markers.That is amazing and beautiful and the true cornerstone of this nation’s foundation.
You can switch it up.Calling your members of congress is important.Showing up at the big protests is important.So is hitting those town halls.But they aren’t everything.There’s a quieter undercurrent to social action, the part where you simply chat with folks in your community, letting them know you have each other’s backs.I especially like the notion of “truth advocacy”—take time off from putting out energy (hitting the phones, hitting the streets, etc.) to read and research on your own, and to disseminate what you learn.
You can take a break.Take a day off.Take a weekend off.You’ll be shocked how much you’ll feel like diving back in after giving yourself a 24-hour break from talking politics, calling reps, reading the paper, or looking at social media.
You can join at any time.If you’ve never called your rep, you can do so for the first time right now.If you can’t call daily, you can call weekly.You are picking up the slack for someone who has reached that burnout point and needs a day off.We need subs like you just as much as we need those every-single-day every-single-protest power players!
We shall defeat them, one by one.☝️Remember: The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice—provided that we keep putting our weight towards bending that mutherfucker. It ain’t gonna bend on its own.
I love, love, love(!!!) seeing and hearing the projects my readers build, and sharing them with folks thinking about how they want to tackle these same projects. First up is Jason Jaknunas’s take on the Bleepbox 8-Step Analog Sequencer (Project 16 in Junkyard Jam Band)—which is easily the best version of this I’ve ever seen (it totally leaves mine in the dust, and I designed the damn thing!)
Everything is just so sweet and just-right here: the knobs, the brushed aluminum label, the wood cheeks, the grommets padding out the LEDs, the labels—but also the little things, the visual balance among the elements, the use of different sizes of knob on different functions. Give it a look, then give it a listen. So rad!
First things first, I want to applaud my senator, Debbie Stabenow, for being hella legit. I just called her office for my daily check-in, and got a little insight on her process when it comes to the Second-Place President’s cabinet nominations: Sen. Stabenow has been meeting with each nominee one-on-one, preferably face-to-face, to feel them out and attempt to get answers to the specific concerns being raised by her constituents. None of the grand-standing or histrionics congressfolk are notorious for, just a straight-up, respectful Q&A. This also means that when Stabenow announced that she would not support Jeff Sessions or Betsy DeVos, she had already told them this to their faces. I respect the hell out of that, and knowing this bit about her process helps me feel less terrible. Thank you, Sen. Stabenow!
Second, I want to clarify two things about calling your reps (which you should be doing daily. Please!):
Call your reps even if you know they already agree with you and are doing what you want done! Tell them “thank you!” If you feel even an iota safer knowing that they are going to bat for you, then say so. This serves two purposes:
It’s a numbers game. They count calls, and those numbers mean something, not just in their office, but on the floor of the House and Senate. The Honorable Gentleman from BFE cares a helluva lot about 100 calls from folks in his district—at the very least, those people can fire him in a couple short years!—but he sure as hell doesn’t just ignore 10,000 calls in The Honorable Lady’s district over in Big City Metro Area, because he sure as hell doesn’t plan on representing BFE his whole damn life. He wants to go places. (This isn’t just my opinion; this is what Rep. Dingell’s office told me this morning: The number one thing you can do as an individual citizen is keep calling.)
Your reps have the worst job, and they need moral support. They are going to get screamed at and threatened for sticking up for the things we want—that’s ludicrous, because you’d think all Americans should want well-funded schools, neighbors from all over the world, and safe drinking water, but here we are. Your reps have to get up every morning, put on uncomfortable shoes, and go get screamed at by weirdos. It is a lot easier for them to hang tough if they can keep in mind how many hundreds of folks back home have their back.
Making these calls is as much about your mental health as our nation’s stability. Even when you’re on the losing end of an issue—and you will be, often—you are going to start feeling better if you take 10 minutes each day to talk to these staffers, to hear their confidence and enthusiasm and bravery and support of you, as a citizen and a fellow human.
Once again it’s that very special time of year when I remind you that it’s hella easy to make your own booze, appropriate for gift-giving or general drunkification. (That link goes to my time-tested E-Z DIY Limoncello recipe; make it now, give it during Xmas/Xanukah week, get super-popular in the Dark Days of the Unconquered Son/Sun)
This is an Auvi-Q.It’s an epinephrine autoinjector—basically an EpiPen—so that folks with severe allergies to bees or shellfish or whatever don’t have to die suddenly.The neat thing about Auvi-Q: It talks!
(My boy has a pal with a couple severe allergies, and so said pal always comes with an autoinjector; this was what he was using a couple years back, when I made the video.)
Here’s the thing about epinephrine: It saves lives, it’s cheap as hell—the amount needed to save a life hardly costs a buck—and it can’t be patented, because it’s just nature’s way: Giving someone heading into anaphylactic shock an epinephrine shot is basically doing what the body would do on its own if it could, with the very stuff the body would use to do it.
But you can hardly expect a stranger in an emergency to whip out a syringe and a tiny bottle and not fuck things up.So the autoinjector (i.e., “EpiPen”—which you may have heard about for recently for some reason) is a legit and important product improvement.It ain’t a $500 improvement, but there’s definite value to an autoinjector, and the EpiPen is an excellent one.
Auvi-Q took the autoinjector one step further by making the device talk you through the process.And, when it came out, it was cheaper than the EpiPen (which, at the time, was midway through it’s moon-shot price hike, which drove a meteoric revenue boost for Mylan—the company selling EpiPens; check the graph).
I mostly thought to bring this up because it’s a neat business lesson:
Autoinjectors are a great product: The medicine itself isn’t a great product (it’s just sorta there, like water or yeast), but making it easier to administer is a great place to improve, and folks will gladly pay for that.
Auvi-Q was a fantastic product addressing a very real pain point: Normal humans often hesitate to even do the EpiPen thing, because they are terrified of fucking up. People with EpiPens die because no one has the presence of mind and confidence to juice them in time.Lowering the “threshold resistance” is always a place to make a dime.
It’s a great example of the Free Market at work: Just as the Free Market first brought us EpiPen (you can’t patent the drug, but you can patent the delivery method), it then brought us the Auvi-Q (you can’t compete on efficacy, but you can on packaging and price).
But then the “EpiPencil“—a $30 DIY EpiPen workalike—hit the news feeds, and I thought it was worthwhile to point out one last lesson in the product arc of Auvi-Q:
Auvi-Q—a product that was both cheaper and, by some measures, better than EpiPen—was recalled in 2015 because it wasn’t reliable dosing people at the right level—which can be deadly.
The point being: A problem can be well defined, its solution known and well understood, and yet implementation on scale can still be an absolute clusterfuck.
Which is why EpiPencil worries the fuck out of me. Does it work for the dude giving the instructions? Maybe; I have no clue. Probably. But will it work for millions upon millions of people with diverse biologies in diverse settings having suffered diverse misshaps? Fantastically unfuckinglikely.
Please don’t leave your kids’ survival up to a self-declared DIY Internet doctor (who is, in fact a PhD mathemetician).
Spent the holiday weekend chilling with friends, and we built a few Jitterbugs (tiny, super-simple, super-cheap robots that run away from light, cockroach-style). I’d totally forgotten how much fun these are. Here’s a video of my 4-year-old sitting in the closet with flashlights and competing at “reverse sumo” (first person out of the ring wins):
Here’s a set of Jitterbugs built by Stephen Trouvere and his boys, with the addition of LED eyes:
I love how those lil guys turned out! For the curious, all we’ve done is built the standard jitterbug, then taken a pair of regular ol’ red LEDs, wired them in parallel, buffered the positive lead with a 100Ω resistor (brown-black-brown stripes), and soldered the free resistor lead to the positive battery terminal, and the negative LED legs to the negative terminal (it’s the same way we wire up the LEDs in the “Switchbox” project in that same book).