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Kickstarting Danger! Awesome, a hackerspace in Cambridge, Mass

Amanda writes, "Danger!awesome is an open-access laser cutting, laser engraving, and 3D printing workshop in the heart of Cambridge, tucked right between MIT and Harvard. Our mission is to democratize access and training to rapid prototyping resources, long reserved for academic institutions and multi-million dollar R&D labs. We want to teach anyone and everyone how to make, customize, and invent.

Read the rest

Viable Paradise sf writing workshop deadline

A reminder that you've got 3 weeks left to apply for the excellent Viable Paradise science fiction writing workshop on Martha's Vineyard -- a week-long, very intensive course taught by Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Debra Doyle, James D McDonald, Steven Brust, Sherwood Smith, Steven Gould, Elizabeth Bear and Scott Lynch. I've taught it several times and recommend it unconditionally.

Cops in Somerville, MA: "It would endanger the public to tell you what guns we have"

Michael from Muckrock sez, "Want to know what guns your neighbor has? Generally public record. What guns your government has? That's top secret. A recent public records request for the armaments of a local police department in Somerville, MA., was met with a surprising response: Releasing a list of guns the department held 'is likely to jeopardize public safety,' and so is exempt from public disclosure. Maybe they're arming up for an insurrection? Cory

Cory in Cambridge, Mass tonight!

Hey, Cambridge, Mass! I'm speaking at Harvard Books tonight at 7PM! Tomorrow I'll be in Albuquerque, then in Lawrence, KS and Toronto. Come on out and say hi! Cory

Innovative MIT-area bookstore needs fresh owner, ideas


Lorem Ipsum books, a bookstore in Cambridge, Mass, is up for sale. Cambridge is one of the great bookselling towns of the world, and Lorem Ipsum was founded as a project by an MIT Media Lab grad named Matt Mankins, to explore sustainable business-models for brick-and-mortar bookselling. Now Mankins has moved to NYC to be CTO of a big magazine publisher, and he's taken to Hacker News to solicit buyers and ideas for the store (which is losing money).

I started Lorem Ipsum Books 9 years ago with the belief that bookstores were an important part of our community--and that they needed to innovate in order to survive.

Freshly out of graduate school at MIT the bookstore was started with the notion that integrating Internet-sales into a traditional brick-and-mortar bookstore was the way forward for small retailers. Rather than run from technology, we were going to embrace it to provide a new sales channel. With a group of friends I built this new way forward, creating Lorem Ipsum Books in Inman Square, Cambridge.

Lorem Ipsum benefited from a custom-coded inventory system that automatically listed our inventory for sale at other online partners like Amazon.com. It was fun to use, efficient, and worked. For awhile there, it looked like this dual-listing was the answer to bookstore's problems. Then supply-ballooned, demand remained the same, and prices dropped.

We tried many things, but were unable to get the store from red to black.

They just deleted our Wikipedia page, citing progress as being 'unremarkable'. Clearly something has to be done...

It's time to innovate again.

The bookstore needs fresh ideas, a radical change in thinking, and a reimagining of the role of the bookstore in the future. I don't want to shut the store down, but may be forced to. Instead, I'm looking to pass the store to other keepers--other innovators--hands.

Cambridge bookstore, founded as an online/offline hybrid, takes to web to look for new owner (Thanks, kingLuma!)

64,000 drug-bust samples in Mass. were processed by a dirty lab tech who tampered with them, altered weight, faked positive tests for illegal substances

Michael F sez, "There's a Massachusetts state crime lab scandal that hasn't yet received too much national attention (outside of the state)--and I thought it was worth sharing. It's been alleged that a single chemist (with forged education credentials) may be responsible for tampering with drug evidence that could have affected the outcome of up to 40,000 cases over the past 10 years. Based on the local coverage and on conversations with friends who are affiliated with the state lab (in an unrelated department), there's a good chance that an unprecedented number of drug convictions will be contested and overturned in the near future. "

From a Phillip Smith story on StoptheDrugWar.org:

State Police have notified prosecutors that some 64,000 drug samples involving the cases may be tainted because of alleged misconduct by former analyst Annie Dookhan in conducting tests on substances submitted to her by them.

Dookhan worked at the Hinton crime lab in Jamaica Plain from 2003 until she resigned in June. According to the Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, which was briefed on the scandal by the Deval Patrick administration last week, the meeting revealed why State Police are now questioning the reliability of the drug evidence Dookhan worked on.

"The lab analyst in question had unsupervised access to the drug safe and evidence room, and tampered with evidence bags, altered the actual weight of the drugs, did not calibrate machines correctly, and altered samples so that they would test as drugs when they were not," the association wrote in a letter to its members.

And of course, everyone knew about this long before the scandal broke. The dirty tech could process three times as many samples as her colleagues, so it was obvious something was going on. And of course, the Department of Public Health downplayed it, saying that the bad stuff was confined to 90 samples processed on one day. And of course, thousands of people went to jail because no one wanted to own up to this.

Mass. Crime Lab Scandal Threatens 34,000 Drug Cases [StoptheDrugWar.org]

Crime Lab Scandal Rocks Massachusetts [NPR]

(Thanks, Michael!)

Charlie Stross and Cory in Brookline, MA tonight

Charlie Stross and I will be at the Brookline Booksmith tonight at 7PM! It's the second-to-last stop on our quick tour for Rapture of the Nerds -- the last stop is this weekend in Rochester, NY. Be there or be pre-posthuman! Cory

Stross and Doctorow on the road: the Rapture of the Nerds tour in Lexington, Brooklyn, Brookline, Rochester

Charlie Stross and I are hitting the road this September 5-9 for a mini, post-Burning Man, post-WorldCon book-tour for our collaborative comic novel of the Singularity called Rapture of the Nerds. We're coming to Lexington, KY; Brooklyn, NY (a stop at MakerBot's BotCave, where there will be a very special surprise!), Brookline, MA, and Rochester, NY. I've never been to Lexington or Brookline, so this is doubly exciting to me!

And tonight, of course, I'm appearing (solo) at a Long Now talk in San Francisco.

Announcing the Tour for Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross’s The Rapture of the Nerds

How Harvard Book Store combines the best of digital bookselling with the best of physical bookselling


Phil Johnson writes in Forbes about the unlikely (and quite wonderful) success of the Harvard Book Store, an absolutely terrific independent bookstore that was bought by Jeff Mayersohn, a high-tech entrepreneur who was determined to exploit the advantages of a great physical location along with print-on-demand, instant gratification.

Essentially, Jeff installed a printing press to close the inventory gap with Amazon. The Espresso Book Machine sits in the middle of Harvard Book Store like a hi-tech visitor to an earlier era. A compact digital press, it can print nearly five million titles including Google Books that are in the public domain, as well as out of print titles. We’re talking beautiful, perfect bound paperbacks indistinguishable from books produced by major publishing houses. The Espresso Book Machine can be also used for custom publishing, a growing source of revenue, and customers can order books in the store and on-line.

You can walk into the store, request an out-of-print, or hard-to-find title, and a bookseller can print that book for you in approximately four minutes. Ben Franklin would be impressed.

But you don’t even have to go into the store to get a book. If you live in Cambridge and neighboring communities, you can order online and get any book delivered the same day by an eco-friendly Metroped “pedal-truck,” or a bicycle, as I like to call them. Beat that Amazon.

Marketers know that success comes from a complex formula, and Jeff’s strategy includes many moving parts. Harvard Book Store pays fanatical attention to customer service with an unrivaled staff of passionate and educated booksellers. They have spent years building a local brand. They bring people together with over 300 public events a year. They’re exceptional retailers with a frequent buyer program. They understand technology, and you can expect them to continually adapt.

I was so impressed by Harvard Book Store -- especially the shelves they'd dedicated to rare and odd treasures from the unplumbably vast Google public domain repository as a sample of the kind of thing you could have made to order in minutes.

The Man Who Took on Amazon and Saved a Bookstore (via Making Light)

Mental institution filled with 28,000 flowers before it was demolished


Artist Anna Schuleit was commissioned to produce an installation in the massive, ancient Massachusetts Mental Health Center before it was demolished. She filled it with 28,000 flowers. Here, Colossal talks with Schuleit about "BLOOM," the resulting installation.

The reactions to Bloom ranged from expressions of delight to raw and renewed sorrow. It was a strange duality: at its core this project was intended to allow people free access to a building that had always been locked and mysterious, while opening its doors also (and especially) to those who had been there for years. The building meant many things to many people, as a workplace, a refuge, a place of confinement. The installation of live flowers and audio (a collage of the sounds of the building before it closed being played over the old PA system) elicited as many reactions as there are stories. I met many hundreds of people who had worked and been at MMHC for years and decades. It was for them that I created this work. We had a guest book in the lobby which filled up with many entries, here are some:

“I walked through Bloom with a close friend of mine who has spent a great deal of time inside similar hospitals. He was close to tears and repeated said he felt the desire to jump into the flowers, sum bold for the freedom and the celebration of his own growth and healing. We recognized that Bloom brought beauty and wonder to what has always been an inherently taboo subject matter.”

“‘Never worry alone’ was a Dr. Tom Gutheil classic line, but because of the lack of social support, too many patients who came here had to worry alone. Anna saw these corridors as places to be filled with growth. For all the patients who never received flowers, these flowers are for you.”

“My therapist’s office was in the basement and the floor is covered in grass. Grass does not bloom but it cushions and it is in the right place. It is the foundation, it softens everything. Conceptually it is brilliant.”

“My mother told me, 36 years ago, “Hang on. They’ll find a cure.” I was suffering alone until I came to MMHC. And today… oh so grateful… beyond any words, so grateful. Lives and sufferings have been redeemed here, and today we celebrate and honor, all of us, in this place, for better or for worse. Today, we flourish. The list of what we cannot do grows shorter and shorter. We become comfortable in a world of three dimensions; we gladly surrender the fourth, fifth, and sixth.”

Bloom: 28,000 Potted Flowers Installed at the Massachusetts Mental Health Center (via Making Light)

Tiny library raises money with tiny uke and awesome video

Blackbeltlibrarian sez, "The Shutesbury Public Library in Shutesbury, Massachusetts is seeking funding in order to build a new building to replace their charming but woefully inadequate current one (which features no running water!). In order to get the word out staff and patrons created this cute little video in order to show the shortcomings of their current location, as well as what they could do with a new building."

Where would you be without your library?