Send Simone To Space—And, A Shutdown Update || Donuts & Broccoli

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Hi guys! Welcome back to Donuts & Broccoli for another Sunday edition. Our donut this week is YouTuber Simone Giertz, whose robots and astronaut antics are as good as any treat. For our broccoli, we’re going to look at how this historically long government shutdown is affecting low income housing tenants and people throughout the country.

Donut: Simone Giertz’s Friendly Robot Takeover

You may already know Simone from some of her viral robot creations, or from her Ted Talk on the art of making “useless things.”

On her YouTube channel she’s made a lipstick-applying robot, a toothbrushing helmet, an applause machine. Even a robot that serves you breakfast.

Do these machines…work?


Well, depends on your definition…

Simone calls herself an “inventor of useless machines,” and on her channel she talks about the joy that she’s found in naming a problem, brainstorming a solution, and bringing it into reality with hardware and design. Setting out, unafraid of making a machine that fails spectacularly— actually, trying to make a machine that fails spectacularly!— let her explore engineering and robotics, unafraid of making stupid mistakes. Over the course of her four years on YouTube she’s learned a lot and grown her following. She’s now been sponsored by Google and other tech companies, raised funds for hurricane relief, met a Mythbuster, and even sold some of her (more functional) creations.

My favorite video of Simone’s is from her series of astronaut training videos. Since she’s always wanted to go to space, Simone decided to administer her own training to prove she would be able to do it. Previously, she locked herself in a bathroom for 48 hours with only freeze-dried food and some children’s books. But in 2017 she got the chance to fly on a zero-gravity plane and experience weightlessness.

The pure joy on her face is infectious, and exactly the vibe you get from the rest of Simone’s channel. She invests 100% of herself into what she loves to do, and luckily, she shares it with the rest of us.

On her channel, Simone recently talked about needing to return for more treatment for a brain tumor that she had partially removed last year. In the upcoming months, she’ll be undergoing radiation therapy, and during her treatment, she might be depending on the support of her subscribers on YouTube and Patreon. Consider showing her some love, or checking out some of her videos linked above. Simone, we’re all rooting for you! #BurnBrian #SendSimoneToSpace

Broccoli: Day 30 of the Government Shutdown

Meanwhile, we have now reached day 30 of the government shutdown. If like me you’re in a state like Maryland or Virginia, each home to over 100,000 federal workers, the effects of the shutdown are visible and immediately disturbing. But the longer this shutdown—now the longest in U.S. history—drags on, the more we will begin to see the far-reaching effects of an administration that is completely out of order.

Low Income Housing Tenants Facing Risk of Eviction

Around the country public housing authorities are scrambling to protect tenants from eviction, as the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is running out of money. HUD has already written letters to nearly 1,500 landlords whose federal subsidies have expired since the shutdown, urging them not to evict low-income tenants in the middle of winter.

Meanwhile, the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) has mapped out 150,000 more contracts that have expired or will expire between December and February. Diane Yentel, President and CEO of the NLIHC, tweeted the above image with “Together, the dots represent ~150,000 deeply poor seniors & people w/disabilities whose homes are at risk from #shutdown2018.”

The Housing Authority of Baltimore, which gets almost all of its funding from HUD, says they are able to depend on their reserve funds to keep Section 8 housing checks flowing, and will remain open during the shutdown.

Danger in National Parks

During the 2013 government shutdown, President Obama closed the country’s national parks in order to protect those landmarks and visitors from potential harm while staff was on furloughed leave. President Trump has refused to take that step during either of the government shutdowns that have happened during his first term, and again left a number of parks open without adequate staff.

Former officials of the Interior Department warned of the dangers of such a move, which would leave visitors without forest rangers in the case of emergency. In a press release the National Parks Conservation Association said that “It’s unrealistic and dangerous to think that parks can remain open with only a skeleton crew […] Rather than jeopardizing our parks’ resources, wildlife, visitors and staff, the administration and Congress must finalize a budget and keep our national parks fully up and running.”

There are already reports of vandalism in the Joshua Tree and Death Valley National Parks, where off-roaders and illegal campers have destroyed pieces of these national landmarks.

Native Americans Going Without Healthcare

The Center for Disease Control and National Institutes of Health are protected during this shutdown, as are HHS-funded programs like Medicare and Medicaid. But throughout the country, many Native Americans depend on the Indian Health Service (IHS) for their healthcare. And right now, funding to the IHS is cut off.

The IHS is chronically underfunded even when the government is working as normal, part of the problem that has led to a huge health disparity between Native Americans and the general population. But the outlook for the IHS while President Trump is in office is particularly unstable, as unlike other critical healthcare agencies, the office is funded by the Interior Department, and goes exposed during a government shutdown like this.

According to NBC News, there are over “730 physicians, 2,300 nurses, 750 pharmacists and 40+ hospitals in 37 states”affected by this closure. Over 2.2 million American Indians depend on the IHS for healthcare.

For now, we’re all just hunkering down and seeing how long this shutdown will last. Based on the non-compromises being offered by President Trump, and his unwillingness to look at any spending bill that won’t pay for his $6 billion campaign promise, we may be in for a wait.

I hope everyone is holding in there during this government shutdown. Maybe if you have a nap, it’ll all be over when you wake up.

Or maybe not.

More reading:

Obama 2013 and Trump 2018. Are the shutdowns the same? Not exactly, by Jon Greenberg for Politifact.

The Never-Ending Crisis at the Indian Health Service, by Andrew Siddons for Roll Call.

Life After a Brain Tumor With Simone Giertz, the Queen of Shitty Robots, by Ali Jaffe for Motherboard.

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