Monthly Archives: February 2012

Wake up! Wake up!!!!

A few days ago my trusty Dremel 400XPR did what I’ve now read is quite common for that flawed model — burst into a dramatic but short-lived fireball (thankfully I use a flex shaft and don’t hold the engine in hand) and then life-ending puff of smoke. So I headed up to the hardware store to get a replacement, and afterwards headed over to Canadian Tire to get a hotdog from the vendor out front. I figured I’d be able to park near the store since it was a mini-blizzard today and I hoped that the old folks that hang out at Canadian Tire and always fill up the handicapped spots would stay home. But instead when I got there I got to see an old fool backing out of a spot and then apparently smash on the gas instead of the brake… He went flying across the lot and smashed into a couple parked cars, destroying each of them as he pushed them into the next spot over. The old guy was about to turn it into a hit and run and started to flee when the hot dog vendor ran out and wrote down his license plate. Seeing this common sense caught up with him and he decided not to become a fugitive over the asinine behavior that is all-too-common for his generation.

“Never a dull day at the hot dog stand,” swore the chef.

There has been a lot of debate over the years about re-testing senior citizens, and then counter claims of ageism. I think when you hit a certain age you have to get your eyes retested, but that’s it. It got me thinking that what we really need at an absolute minimum — for all ages, and as a part of regular license renewal — is reflex testing. I’d like to see every granny (and every stoner dimwit that’s not also compensating with video games) lose their license when they can’t react to stimuli within a reasonable timeframe. Hell, with how realistic the physics of driving games/simulators are these days, I don’t see why we don’t do virtual driving tests. Right now we basically just make people take a glorified drive around the block and make sure they understand the basic rules of the road. This is not why accidents happen. There’s no reason why we couldn’t use virtual testing to actually test people in evasive driving and the sort of real life situations that often lead to accidents. But barring that, reflex tests. I’m sure it has the potential to eliminate a third of the accidents if we take the morons and the decrepit off the road.

Other than that I’m watching Inception for the first time since seeing it in the theatre and enjoying it a great deal. As you know dreams have been on my mind lately, and always have been. Repeating myself, when I was a kid, I had only a very small handful of dreams that repeated over and over and over until now, in my adulthood, they coalesced into a single large dreamworld that exists in parallel to my waking life. I don’t know if it’s brain damage from oxygen deprivation resulting from my condition, or if it’s just stress, but I feel like the dream world and the real world are combining, blending and blurring into each other. I find myself walking down the street and I recognize someone and I wonder, where do I know them from, and I realize that they are characters from the dream world. I’m sure the psychiatric explanation as to how I could meet someone that I previously dreamed about is somewhat akin to the neurological basis for deja vu (which is quite interesting), but understanding that logically does not make it any less disquieting.

So I have been drawing it and painting it.

I know that Occam’s Razor says it’s just a silly story, and most of the time I do believe that, but sometimes I am convinced that these are the side effects of living in a simulation. I am quite solidly atheist, but my love of science fiction makes me very vulnerable to the proofs that this is one of a trillion virtual worlds. Perhaps having my mortality so pushed in my face lately I’m even more vulnerable to the hope that one day I will wake up and get to “play again”. It seems more possible when I read about the fact that time an matter are quantized or “pixellated” and all the other weirdness of quantum science, but I feel like quantum science is like the Bible — if you don’t really understand it, you can use it to prove just about any crazy idea. And that we are living in a dream is definitely a crazy idea!

Of course it would explain why I can remember very little beyond the past twelve hours…

Speaking of kid’s drawings…

Nefarious has always been around art and the commercial application of art, largely because of seeing me take so many of my drawings and turn them into stuff for BMEshop. Now at her mom’s, she actually has that t-shirt printing gear in her garage, so she’s been eager to do some shirts herself, and asked me to convert a couple of her drawings into PSD files suitable for printing. These are the first two that we made. Her mom is printing them for her, but I also put them up on Zazzle (the pictures link to the shirt pages). On the off chance that anyone buys one, she gets $2.40 for every sale and I’m sure would be quite thrilled at the prospect. You can get them on any color shirt, not just the ones it defaults to.

If it’s not obvious, the “not properly grown band” is a band made up of mutants!

Someone warn Santa, we’re coming for him!

I’m sure by now most of you have heard about the local Kitchener, Ontario man who was briefly tossed in jail and had his house turned upside down because his daughter drew a picture of him holding a gun at school. When the teacher asked the child what the drawing was she said, “that’s my dad and his gun that he uses to shoot monsters and bad guys!”

What four year old doesn’t have a dad that kills monsters and bad guys? By the way, I should add that the school knows the father and has up until this point had a good relationship with him. To put everything in the open so no one is saying “I’ll bet there’s more to the story” in a smarmy voice, five years prior he had an assault and burglary conviction, but since then he’s turned his life around and is now a life coach and certified PSW (personal support worker — sort of like a home nurse). Again, the school knows all this, and last year they even offered him a job as a counselor.

Anyway, instead of talking to the child, having a parent teacher conference, or doing the reasonable thing and realizing this is a happy child with a decent parent known to the school and IGNORING IT, the teacher freaked out and called the authorities, telling them in very clear terms that this child was in danger because of guns in the home. The police never heard about it simply being a child’s drawing — they just heard “child with access to unregistered guns”.

So when the guy went to pick up his three children after school like every day, he was instead met by three police and he was handcuffed and told he was being charged with possession of a firearm. They ignored his tearful and terrified claims that they were making a mistake and took him and the children to the police station where he was strip searched and dumped in a cell. I’ve spent time in a jail cell for something I didn’t do, strip-searched, and I have had my home invaded by child services on false charges, and even though it “all turned out fine” and in the end the police and children’s aid both apologized for wasting my time (which I assure you does not make it any better), it was still incredibly stressful to go through for me and something I’d never wish on anyone, and even more so for my daughter. Anyway, they went to this poor guy’s home and brought his wife and baby (he has a lot of kids!) to the station where they were interviewed by Family and Children’s Services. While this was going on they were searching his house top to bottom — I am sure it’s ripped to shreds. In their search the totality of what they found was a clear plastic toy gun, which wa later identified as the gun in the drawing. No weapons, no drugs, no nothing. A typical baseless witch hunt.

The police released him with no charges and “an apology”, although he now has an additional arrest record which will stay on his record for the next three years making it difficult for him to travel and potentially get jobs. The school and child welfare and police all stand by their actions and are not only clear that everything was done correctly and that they’d do it the same way again, but the school has been very clear that they are completely unwilling to even review their actions for the possibility of other ways of handling such a situation. Scum. Scum. Scum.

Ignoring the fact that there is nothing more dangerous than subjectively investigating people for thought-crimes, this shows a disturbing level of incompetence on the part of the teacher in being able to identify problems at home. Teachers are the first line of defense against child abuse. They need to be able to tell when a child is in danger and when a child is not. To identify the problem signs. The system failed to a comical degree here. In this case it failed with a false positive. That’s terrible. But I have to wonder with such ignorant people, how many times have they failed with a false negative? Because that’s even worse. I haven’t even talked about the collateral damage here — how is this family ever supposed to trust this school again? How can they continue to have a reasonable relationship with them? They’re going to have to move. And how are these kids ever supposed to trust teachers — let alone police — again? The whole thing is sickening on so many levels.

By the way, here’s a drawing that Nefarious did. I don’t even want to think what could have happened if she had gone to this school (which is not very far from where we live):

Christmas is ruined!

Thankfully my daughter went to a wonderful school where they were willing to foster children’s creativity rather than try and destroy their family if they moved even slightly outside the boundaries of acceptable prole behavior as determined by the lowest of the low level “politically correct” bureaucrat.

Nefarious by the way has had automatic knives of her own since she was five. She has been shooting air guns — with my guidance and safety instruction — since she was three. Her school was aware of this as well. Heck, on one of their school trips to the park the kids were showing each other how to make bows and arrows out of sticks and found objects. There is nothing wrong with responsible use of such things. In fact, learning how to responsibly handle danger is a very, very important part of growing up, and one that I worry many children miss out on in these politically correct danger-averse modern times.

News links on this story: Man shocked by arrest after daughter draws picture of gun at school, Kitchener officials sticking to their guns, Possession of a dangerous crayon , etc. — the victim’s name is “Jessie Sansone” for those wanting to search for updates.

Framed I tell ya!!! FRAMED!

I finished building and painting a nice custom frame for my recent dream-inspired painting that you’ve already seen in detail. Right now it’s hanging over the door to our walk-in closet. I’d hoped to hang it at eye level because it’s quite detailed, and you’d think that in a 4000+ square foot studio it wouldn’t be too hard to find the perfect place, but there’s already so much art (and bookshelves) blocking the walls that it wasn’t so easy. You can zoom this picture and all the others as well, as always. I don’t know why I even bother saying that.

I want to also mention that there is absolutely no image processing done on the picture above other than cropping and sizing. It is exactly as it came off the camera and a true representation of the painting (what looks like hairs or scratches are highlights from the flash hitting the texture of the paint). It is approximately 20″x16″. I mention all this because since it did end up turning out after all, if someone wants to make me a reasonable offer on it, I’m willing to sell it.

I made the frame out of some wood molding that I picked up at Home Depot. My electric miter saw is at Ryan’s farm, so I cut it by hand which wrecked my arms for a couple days and they’re still a bit sore, although I’m keeping my fingers crossed that no permanent damage was done. I glued the four edges together with wood glue plus a belt-clamp to hold it together, and when it was dry, I used epoxy clay to quickly sculpt four comical snakes to sit on the corners. These serve the dual purpose of being decorative and also covering up the points where the patterns carved/pressed into the wood don’t quite match, as well as any minor imperfections in the joint. I think I’ve only made five or six frames myself in the last decade, and I’d like to think they’re still improving.

The frame was first hit with a primer coat of flat black (the gloss — which really pumps up the saturation — is a top layer of sprayed clear acrylic) and then painted it with colors to echo the painting and highlighted each “scale” to give the painting the illusion of glow. Like I already mentioned, these scales are actually three dimensional as they’re part of the molding design. You wouldn’t believe how long it took to do this — each tile painted a base color, then about half of them have a yellow glow highlight, and all of them an off white highlight on top of that, and then the black lining between and around them. The time passed quickly without me noticing because I was listening to imagination inspiring press conferences from The Disclosure Project (various “qualified” government and military personnel whistle-blowing about UFOs and bases on the moon and other things dear to my heart) — you can find those for free on their website (scroll down to “Press Conference Overview”). I can’t prove to you it’s not a big hoax (definitely their witnesses range from über-reliable to extremely flaky to obvious liar — you can read an arguably overly skeptical debunking here) but it was enormous fun.

But I digress… A few more pictures of the frame:

I’ve written quite a few times here about the economics of space travel. Really, really scratching my head about why we’re spending a hundred times what we should on rocket launches… There are two very obvious explanations as to why we spent $50 million on a launch that should be half a million: first, it could be that the military-industrial complex is overly vulnerable to profiteering and we’re seeing the big spender version of the $500 toilet seat. That’s the explanation I usually assume is the right one. But the real reasons behind the $500 toilet seat bring me to the second reasonable possibility: that this massive overcharging is a way of laundering money into black projects. A way of moving taxpayer money in massive quantities into secret projects that can’t be publicly funded. That turned out to be a lot of the story behind the government paying silly amounts for mundane objects. They weren’t really buying a $500 toilet seat. They were buying a $10 toilet seat, and quietly putting $490 into the funding for a stealth bomber with every toilet seat. Now, the average person knows what a toilet seat or a hammer should cost. They do not however know what an advanced high-tech rocket should cost, so maybe it’s a lot easier to do it that way?

Oh and since people always ask me this, I do not believe that UFOs are visitors from other stars. My personal guess is that it’s a mix of misidentification of natural and man-made phenomena, including military black projects from multiple nations. I suspect that those running these black projects from time to time have encouraged the “alien” hypothesis because it serves both to distract and discredit the witnesses who might otherwise be credible. And if I’m wrong, I’m more likely to believe that the aliens are time-traveling humans, humans visiting from a planet Mars settled by a previous advanced Earth civilization prior to the last ice age (a la the ancient UFOs in Vedic poems, which may or may not be early sci-fi), or even some non-human cephalopod intelligence that lives deep under the ocean (sailors regularly see pink elephants UFOs — about 50% of UFO sightings according to the Russians). I just am not convinced that we are going to solve the problem of superluminal travel, which is required for “casual” travel between star systems. Without that, it’s going to be either slow communication between distant civilizations (imagine a fifty year delay in your phone call rather than half a second of latency), or at best gigantic generational arks moving between stars. Not the sort of thing that you can hide.

To be honest, I’m much more interested in hearing what’s at the bottom of the Baltic sea (sonar picture above — and again, here’s a skeptical take to cruelly kill your fantasies). If I had to guess, the safe money is that it’s a round Russian ironclad boat, although that would require explaining why it’s twice as big as any known ship they built, to say nothing of the fact that those ships were not known to have been in that area, and the fact that whatever it was hit the bottom of the ocean fast enough to “scrape” a half kilometer long straight gouge before coming to rest. So many interesting things under the sea (including a great many things that were once on land when sea levels were much lower, like the Yonaguni monument). As I’m sure most of you know, we have far better maps of the moon than we do of the bottom of the ocean, and more people have been on the moon than have been in the deepest parts of the ocean. Who knows what’s down there?

I have more important things to do today than ramble about UFOs but I think that the interesting things about the UFO phenomena is not “aliens”… The interesting thing is the “U”. That something is there, and that it’s unidentified, and it’s always fun getting to the bottom of mysteries whether the explanation ends up being mundane or extremely surprising. The world is a bizarre and fascinating place without having to dip ones toes into what amounts to the paranormal.

A definite dream improvement

Got up this morning, read the majority of DC’s short-lived — cancelled after 19 issues — supernatural prison comic Hard Time and enjoyed it. It seems that everything I enjoy ends too soon <insert sad ironic laugh here>. Then Caitlin and I watched the Walking Dead from last night (and Comic Book Men). She thinks it’s too slow moving and isn’t as sold on it as I am (it’s not as if the comic isn’t a bit ponderous at times as well — but such is war, even zombie war: long periods of boredom punctuated with brief moments of extreme terror and danger), but for me it’s a close competitor for the top slots of my favorite TV of all time along with Breaking Bad. Speaking of “cancelled too soon”, I was also a fan of The Sarah Connor Chronicles, the TV spinoff from the Terminator movies (whose latest installment was beyond terrible). My afternoon was supposed to be to go to the post-office to send the stack of ModCon books (see entry before this one) that sold over the weekend, only to discover that because it’s a holiday here (“Family Day”) I can’t go to the post office, let alone buy envelopes at the stationary store, also closed. So for those of you expecting books, they’ll ship tomorrow.

I did however do one productive thing, and that’s adding some transparent layers on my dream painting, selectively highlighting and shading it to give it a bit more depth. The colors were totally flat before that — although now that I’ve added flourescents, it’s difficult to photograph even in perfect light (I took it outside) because it’s too bright. Anyway, here’s an animation of the changes I made and you can click on it to view the current version in high quality (the image shown inline suffers a lot because of the animation compression, but it gets the changes across nicely).

Be warned that the click-through is a one meg image because it seems JPGs fall short in the color scheme I used and I had to set the quality setting very high to keep it from being blocky.

Other than making a frame for it (which I guess I’m not doing today either since the lumber store is also closed it seems) I think I’ll freeze it where it’s at because I’m not in love with this enough to beat it into any semblance of perfection. I got a request to make a zombie bracelet charm in silver, so I may work on that. I’m struggling with getting up to speed with silverwork, although I did make Caitlin a nice charm/pendant of a little fellow holding a heart for Valentine’s day that I think turned out nicely. Which reminds me, she just posted a picture of the beautiful painting that Nefarious painted her for Christmas. Oh, and I’ve also been converting Ryan’s blog (which I still have a link to, I know, but has been down since October) to a book for him as well, so my blog-to-book software is getting more mature as time goes by. It will never be a release-candidate but I will probably post the source code and some resultant XML, HTML/CSS, and PDF files since I can see them being useful to others…