Monthly Archives: May 2011

Mouse CaseMod Teaser Pic

I’ve finally got my big casemod project, totally reskinning (and redoing some of the mechanical and electrical innards as well) a Logitech V220 wireless mouse. I’ve included not just the mouse buttons but also the scroll wheel and its button. Last night I painted the mix of cast plastic and sculpted polymer clay and metal parts and today I gave it four coats of super strong automotive engine enamel (normal clear coats aren’t strong enough). Here is a teaser picture of all the painted parts (and a clay pot I made for a cactus but I’ll post that separately). Watch for a massive post on the finished project and a complete how-to in the next few days.

I probably (…definitely) put a lot more hours into this than I should have but I’m proud of how it turned out and the picture doesn’t do it justice. I’ve had a rough couple days in no small part because of the heat — crossing 42 degrees Celsius (or 108 degrees Fahrenheit) with the humidex today. Brutal. Brutal. Brutal. I hate how hot it is in Toronto in the summer… I’ve never been able to stomach it. If it weren’t for being stuck here for medical reasons I would gladly leave and move to Nunavut.

Cast Devil Horns/Rock Hand/Maloik Hood Hornament

I finished my hood ornament project for the Toronto Department of Zombie Disposal truck today and wanted to show it off. Let me begin with some full-vehicle pictures, which you can click to see uncropped and at high resolution, and then we’ll get to closeups and the how-to later. Enjoy!

The how-to pictures and close-ups continue after the break.


Dance Party at TJ’s upsets TJ due to lack of dancing

Back on April 12th, 2008, less than twenty friends got together at the Thomas Jefferson memorial (the date being his 265th birthday, thus the get-together) and had a silent dance (wearing headphones so as not to bother anyone). The police decided to arrest them for “demonstrating without a permit” (as if you need a permit for a basic civil right like dancing in spot silently) along with various resisting arrest type charges (that is, the charges you give if you have no real charges to offer). Those charges were eventually dismissed, but the law was upheld and they were blocked from suing over civil rights violations.

As a response, Adam Kokesh (TV/radio host of “Adam Vs The Man” and a former marine who you may remember from Iraq Veterans Against the War, made the announcement that he was hosting a “Dance Party at TJ’s. That was yesterday. A small group of them (less than ten when the police stepped in) got together an silently slowdanced (you may recognize Code Pink founder and Green Party senatorial candidate Medea Benjamin expressing confusion at her arrest) or stood in place grooving to their headphones — nothing that might not happen on any random day. No yelling, no placards, no obvious sign of protest. Only an idea, a thought. I would say the dancing was irrelevant since they were risking arrest not for their perfectly acceptable behavior, they were risking arrest for their thoughts alone. Their legal actions were not done to break a law, they were only done to make it obvious to the police that their values were inline with those of Thomas Jefferson, the symbolic America father being celebrated in this memorial in the first place.

Watch the video for the policestate overreaction — it’s shocking and somewhat Kafkaesque.

The police of course violently arrest them (including body slams and choking) and when asked what they were being arrested for, the pigs refused to tell them, only saying “you’ll find out” (after a promise of the entire weekend in jail). To top it off, they told anyone filming it, including journalists (getting it on FOX), that they had to stop. To do this in front of the statue of Thomas Jefferson, just wow… Then they took the action of shutting down the entire memorial, telling everyone that they had to leave or be arrested, without any explanation as to why, even though nearly all the people there were just tourists there to visit a memorial to “freedom”.

The icing on the cake was the police forcing Chinese tourists out of the Jefferson Memorial, telling then that if they didn’t leave they would be arrested. I gotta wonder what world I’m living in when tourists go back to China, thanking their lucky stars that at least they don’t live in a big brother state like America.

If you’re not afraid of being arrested and fined — be there next Saturday!

Ok, Bad Joke…

I wonder a lot about consciousness; sentience and the seat of conscious life. That which is aware of itself. I have to believe that it is illusory. It is not a real thing. It has no physical form yet it is. Supernatural without requiring the supernatural. It is an emergent property of a complex system. The sum being greater than the parts. However it is also an illusion in the moment with no future and past as much as it wants to believe they are real and that continuity of sentience extends into them. Or a future and past that are even more illusory than the present.

It is likely that consciousness passes from one part of the brain to another when I sleep, although that also forces me to admit that consciousness may cease from time to time. It’s hard to say because for all I know I’m conscious while asleep but just don’t remember it. Sentient in the moment without the illusion of continuity over time. Split brain studies have shown conclusively that there are multiple seats of consciousness inside a single brain, and that these are not truly aware of each other — and what’s more, each one believes it is the only one. And of course although “I” am made up of a trillion lifeforms if you count the bacteria which certainly have some collective “I” , I can only wholly grasp the small sliver that my slice is getting. And even though I am also part of the larger Gaia entity, I can lay no claim to sense the consciousness of what some call God. Maybe I can with the help of DMT. But maybe life is bigger and the universe is a computing entity. It wouldn’t surprise me but I can’t sense it either (need more DMT).

I wonder if the end result of the large particle accelerator atom smish-smasher experiments will be the realization that we’re living in a simulation, as we start to “crash the code” and try to look at things the simulation isn’t simulating. Some people have made the claim that since there should be only one “true and physical” reality, but a nearly endless collection of potential simulated (or “virtual”) realities, that statistically we should assume that we are almost certainly living in a simulation. I suppose that one way of explaining the reason that so many people decide that they used to be Cleopatra or Napoleon is that in the real world we’ve all played that simulation. That video game.

With that in mind I will not be one bit surprised if when I die in this world that I wake up in another. Probably with no memory of this one so why does it matter? But when I go to sleep my sentient experience ends. I can’t be sure when I wake up in the morning that I am the same person that I remember or that I really lived the remarkable things I remember. It seems just as likely to me that I’ve just been “booted up” with a memory state that inserts me into this life. I have no way of knowing though so all I can do is keep on playing. That said, you have no way of knowing if I’m even real. It’s possible that these words you’re reading were written by you, out in the real world, to tease you with a hint as to the real reality. Wouldn’t that be a trip, since as far as I can tell, I’m experiencing writing them. But as soon as I finish typing that sentence, I have no way of knowing if I did it or if I just loaded the program with that as the back story. Of course in the simulation of me, I have to wonder if all the “non-player characters” are sentient for the same emergent reality. So even if I’m the one playing the game and I’m real, so are all the actors that the system generates for me to play with, and even though from my point of view they’re just video game characters, from their point of view its the reverse and they’re the real ones. I could just as easily be the non-player character… and more likely am…

“Ok, bad joke. You’re not a replicant.”

But back to sentience and how it can feel so real but obviously (or maybe not) have no physical form. Assume for a moment that this is reality. If we took all of me, and enough of my surroundings, and ran that as a “simulation” in a computer, the computer could in theory play out my life. What I wonder though is whether the program would be sentient. The strange answer seems that from the outside it would not be, as it’s just a machine, but on the inside, it would experience exactly the same things as the “real me”, so it would be sentient. At least in the moment. At least from the point of view of the “program”. Just like I am sentient, but only from the point of view of my small slice of the meatspace in this brain in this body in this world in this universe. But only from that point of view.

It makes me wonder if a story is sentient. I think perhaps it is, but only as you’re telling it, and only in that moment. As soon as you stop reading, the story is no more aware of itself than I am when I’m asleep. Start reading again and the story wakes up, and it is self-aware and has a past and a present in that moment. It feels self aware but only from its point of view. I can’t sense it any more than I can truly convince myself of the reality of anything around me or you can of me. Sure, the story is a static object that is already written, but if you step outside time and look at the totality of my life, the electrochemical reactions that make up my reality are what they are and I am just as static as that story. It just doesn’t seem that way from my illusory point of view, and I think it’s reasonable to suppose a story might experience the same thing. Who am I to figure out what the threshold for that emergence is? I think maybe I have these musings because as an atheist, it eliminates any fear of death and in fact fills me with intense curiosity about the experience. However, the realist in me would still put the safe money on a fade to black and nothing more…

I sure do hope I’m betting wrong.

On Zombies; Becoming, and Disposing of

First let me promote the disposing of zombies — I was, by complete surprise, very tickled to get this email today from Jordan in Detroit, who has painted a logo on his truck drawing inspiration from my Internet-famous Jeep (which I’m going to spend some time doing a new customization from this weekend, so stay tuned) and its “Toronto Department of Zombie Disposal” paint job. Very cool.

We’re now joined by the “Detroit Department of Zombie Disposal” (duh, writing that for search bots).

But the becoming of zombies…? I was thinking that in a way that’s what I’m experiencing. I think perhaps I can relate to zombies, if they can be related to. In a way my body is slowly rotting and decomposing and dying, as its useful muscle tissue is slowly and painfully converted into immobile calcified garbage flesh that can do nothing but experience agony. It’s what I imagine its like to be a zombie — the otherwise comedic Night of the Living Dead series touched on this, that they are able to feel the process of decomposition. If it turns out brains actually do take the pain away, I have to wonder whether I would eventually be willing to violently eat brains to bring me relief. I suspect I would.

Heck, I might try it just on the slim hope…

That said, I was interested to see the movie trailer today for “Raw Opium“, a documentary that looks like it treats opium as a medicine, something which is a sadly taboo subject, even though there is a mountain of evidence both scientific and historical for its efficacy in treating pain (and much more) with a minimum of side-effects, contrary to what the fear-merchants soldiering on in the so-called “War on Drugs” would have you believe… Which is not really a war on drugs, but more of a war to protect the drug industry and feed the for-profit prison industry as a bonus. Click the friendly picture that I took yesterday of a llama using its baby as a pillow to visit the movie’s site and watch the trailer.

There is no treatment for my disease nor do I suspect there will be any time soon so all they can do for me is try and reduce my pain level. They have tried various big-pharma brand-name patent-controlled drugs like Lyrica, but all of them have had zero effect on pain but have come with a long list of horrible side effects that would make them barely worth taking even if they did work. The only class of medication that has been effective are opiates, and they’ve been the most struggle to get because of their narcotic stigma, even though I’ve experienced zero side-effects — not even euphoria. Only pain reduction. And although it is almost impossible to prescribe (other than in British Columbia), the only medication that I’ve ever used that was able to take the pain away was diamorphine (aka “heroin”, so named by Bayer because of its “heroic” ability to reduce suffering), and I want to emphasize that it achieved this without any side effects including any “high”. It just gave me a moment of peace and normalcy. It is very difficult to explain what it is like to spend every moment of your life in pain. Emphasis on “every”. Imagine if anything you do is first and foremost torture. Everything you experience hurts. Everything you do has its true essence obscured by a thick layer of pain that you have to try and see through. Perhaps it is a testament to spending twenty years getting tattooed and pierced — finding joy via painful experiences — that I am able to still enjoy parts of my life. I don’t know.

I had a doctors appointment though earlier this week that really bothered me. It was with doctors that I don’t normally see, but at one of the best regarded pain clinics in the world. Because I hadn’t been at that hospital in a while I was pretty sure they were unaware of my specific diagnosis, so I figured when I went in that they were not going to be able to help me and my prediction was correct. The guy I saw was an anesthesiologist and was hoping to help me with nerve blocks, which are generally only done on smaller areas (for example, a single limb) and are not effective on something with as large a scale as mine. So he called in his superior, someone who in theory demands respect in this field. And what does he recommend and offer me?


Complete voodoo bullshit that is no better than a placebo.

Thanks but no thanks.

For those who don’t know, acupuncture is kind of like Wicca in that it’s a modern invention pretending to be “ancient knowledge”. Acupuncture is basically “magic” created by a mix of Orientalism (ie. romanticism about the supposed exotic and ancient wisdom from Asian cultures) amplified by Chairman Mao who saw it as a great way of tricking poor villagers into thinking his communist state was providing them with medical care when it couldn’t come close to affording genuine doctors. It doesn’t work any better than placebo, something that study after study has confirmed (for example, studies that compare acupuncture by a “traditional medicine doctor” and by an actor poking needles into random locations have exactly the same results). Don’t get me wrong, pain is often in the mind, even “real” pain, and placebos can work for that — as was famously discovered by the wartime medic who ran out of anesthetic for field surgery and instead of admitting it injected the wounded with saline solution, telling them it was lidocaine, and then being shocked to discover that in most cases it worked! Believing a lie is a mistake your subconscious mind can make as easily as your conscious mind I suppose. But that doesn’t mean that saline works as an anesthetic, nor does it mean that acupuncture is real… And seeing doctors that appear to whole-heartedly believe in acupuncture (or homeopathy or reiki or a great many other junk therapies) is rather distressing and makes me worry a great deal about their ability to actually understand the problems that I am coming to them for help with. If I was looking for bullshit I’d go see a priest or the neighborhood neon-palmreader-sign psychic.

I won’t be going back to them, and before you worry too much, my current main doctor is not such a fool as far as I can tell, and is helpful and other than how he is shackled by the prejudices of law, seems to doing the best he can. I just needed to publicly express my frustration at the supposedly scientifically trained fools in the medical industry pushing acupuncture and so on. By the way, for a decent overview of many of the issues with acupuncture, there are good articles that I highly recommend reading and passing on at these links:

Both are highly recommended reading!

I would never make the claim that there isn’t traditional medicine that is effective and helpful (and perhaps even so-far overlooked by “mainstream” medicine), but as a sadly too-true generalization, the commercialization of alternative medicine is the worst thing to happen to health in the West and a terrible and dangerous step backward that generates oodles of needless illness in trade for the oodles of cash that sustains the sham. I always make a point of asking pharmacists which of the magical cure-all metal bracelets (prominently placed near the checkout) they recommend in their professional opinion and watch them awkwardly debate whether its worth debasing themselves with a lie. Gosh, I hope they’re lying anyway, because believing it, like the aforementioned doctors seemed to, is so much more disturbing. Anyway, I’m repeating myself now, so just go read those articles. Spread the truth and do what you can to stop the spread of willful ignorance.

As it is getting late and I would like to be off this computer, other than that, Nefarious is at sleep-away camp this weekend — archery and waterskiing and much fun stuff — so I’m going to try and spend tomorrow polishing my welding chops because I’ve now got all the pieces for my electric trike here and want to start assembling it. And I’ve also got some little projects like a bit of truck customization and also finally finishing off the skull mouse for which I just finished fabricating the last components.