Friday, August 9, 2013

The Little Death, pt2

Hi, it's the next Tane. You were parked for over an hour in the waiting room your ACL reconstruction while others came and went. Ray, your room mate, wheeled in and joined you before you left despite you leaving your room 30min before him. You hope his shoulder op goes OK.

Finally they wheel you to the theatre, there are the lights you've seen on Scrubs, but it's all first-person and feels like a dream. There's a thin bench which they go to lift you onto but you tell them you can do it yourself and hop across. We're jammy bastards both of us. When they gave you the general anaesthetic the initial needle stung giving you the local on your forearm. Next you watched, detached, as Nazir gave you a full syringe full of that white goopy shit. For half a second everything in your visual field had concentric ripples, then

I'm awake, confused, why didn't they do the surgery. My left leg feels odd and I try to cross my legs, and am told "no don't do that sit still". A face above me asks "do you feel any pain" "Actually yes my knee kinda aches." "Tramadol 100ml!" Someone is injecting something into my canula ~things go blurry~

apparently I'm still here, I'm quite comfortable in my hospital bed, my leg is tied up in bandages and splinted, everything seems quite alright. If I feel awake enough I can tether my iPad to my phone and mooch on the internet. Every 4 hours the nurses bring me more drugs and I sleep for a while, when I wake up I'm back for a bit and I can play with my toys and connect to the world. Hi how are you going we're here to take your blood pressure? Ok okay that's fine, here's my right arm, no I don't really feel any pain, yes gimme the drugs because why skip now and then make more work for yourselves in an hour when my nerve block wears off. Oxycodone you say? Okay I live in a civilized country so this is free, gimme the good stuff. I's goood~~~

The next day I wake, meet with the hospital physio who makes sure I don't fail at crutches... heh done this before but he was nice so I showed off my leet crutch skills, up and down the stairs, like I did at Fairway shopping center getting that envelope. He was surprised, either my physio is better than most or I'm just better at following instructions. By the time my backup lift is organised the nurses are pointedly asking when I'm leaving, but I've had the lunch that I ordered. Cheesy ravioli. Process win!

The nurse wheels me, matter of fact, towards the exit. I said I could walk but she insisted and hey, how many times in my life am I gonna get wheeled? So I'm a passenger in a one-man dodgem car through the hospital and then we wait for Mara to arrive and take me home.

Friday, July 19, 2013


So, ever wondered why people have pets? It varies. Different pets attract different people for different reasons. If you want attention, get a dog. If you want something to spend money on, get a horse. But cats... why do people get cats?

If you think about it, cats don't make much sense. They do their own thing, you have to clean the litter tray and feed them every day, other than that they occasionally demand attention and petting, and they occasionally (often if it's cold) sleep in your lap while you're doing sedentary stuff. Why is this good? If you're a modern ape and have a gas heater and some blankets, what do cats really bring? Other than being really smug when they're happy. Really, really smug, and satisfied and happy.

That's why.

See, humans are pack animals who historically (in the anthropological sense) have relied a whole heap on our social group for our survival. As such, we're empathic creatures. We've evolved to distill some happiness from the comfort of those around us. And it just so happens that cats with their little fuzzy faces and their little fuzzy paws are perfectly featured to express comfort, and relaxation, and happiness, in body language that we humans can instinctively read.

This is why we keep cats as pets. They provide companionship, and they are often much more concerned about our wellbeing than we give them credit for. But when it comes down to it, we keep cats to be our happiness proxies. All of the things we wish that we could feel, they feel. (Or at least they look like they feel... who knows what another creature really feels?) But if you've ever given your pet cat a scratch on the jaw, seen her stretch luxuriously and then settle back in to sleep, and headed on your way to work feeling that bit happier for thinking "at least she gets to sleep in"... then your cat is your joy surrogate. She exists in your life to be happy. You do whatever you can to keep her that way, because just by being happy, she makes you happy, through this mechanism of empathy.

Even if you have to get up and go to work when you really don't want to, your cat doesn't, and your cat's happiness can be enough for the both of you.

Monday, April 1, 2013


So I was reading this. And I can see where she's coming from, but I have to disagree. In particular, I have to disagree with the position that "a statement that you [as a physically disabled person] are different in a way that needs to be fixed" is hurtful.

I think it's great to be positive about our various different abilities. I think that the indomitable human spirit is the one thing that stands between any seriously disabled person and despair. More than that, I feel that this spirit allows people who've been dealt a really unfair hand to not only play, but win, every day. All of us have this human spirit; all of us are capable of amazing feats of perseverance when we have no other option. What truly sets disabled people apart is that they are pushed to it. They're forced to carry on in the face of their disability.

The usual stance these days is that if you can't do something that a healthy, fully functional human can do, then that's A-OK and it's awful to even suggest that you suffer or feel any kind of inconvenience because of this. This shits me deeply, on a basic, fundamental level, because it is trivialising the struggle that every single disabled person faces on a daily basis. It is telling them that there's nothing wrong with them, that they should be happy with what they have instead of wanting a fully functional body.

Like many others, I have myopia. I am unable to focus my eyes beyond about 25cm from my face without artificial assistance. My eyes are built wrong, whether due to genetics or me reading too much during my early teens, I don't know, but my lenses and/or corneas do not focus light properly. I don't get all outraged if someone acknowledges the fact that I can't see for shit without my glasses. It's a fact. I couldn't read inch-high text from more than a meter away to save my life. I couldn't drive a motor vehicle without optical correction. I'm very lucky that, thanks to science, I can buy glasses and while I'm wearing them this problem is completely fixed.

I am this lucky because, over the course of human history, smart and hardworking people have decided that being myopic is a difference that needs to be fixed. And now, thanks to their hard work, I have several options to repair or work around my disability.

Back to the article I linked at the start. The author wants others to see disabled people as people who "don’t see their physical or mental limitations as things to be fixed by outsiders, but rather something that is part and parcel of who they are." This is just cognitive dissonance at play. She has accepted that she's unable to fix her disability, and so she's convinced herself that it is a good and proper part of who she is and who she should be. She states that "because of a brilliant surgeon and supportive hospital, I have a body that works." At one stage surgery improved her condition, but at some point between then and now (and despite the fact that she still describes her condition as a 'hindrance'), any suggestion of further improvement became hurtful.

I guess my message here is that we need to see the person, not the disability, even when that person is us. We need to be strong enough to accept that there is a beautiful, vibrant, caring, loving person who, unfairly, through no fault of that person, is trapped in a faulty vehicle. We need to see the difference between the person, and the vessel in which they currently reside. And we need to agree that if that vessel is faulty, it is up to us to repair it, not as some indictment of the person residing in it, but as a service to enable that person to live their life as they should always have been able. If fixing it is impossible with current science, then it is up to us to advance science to a point where a fix is possible, so that eventually no person will have to live with that disability. If something is hurting you, something is impairing you and stopping you from reaching your full potential, then this is not OK. You deserve to be able to have this problem fixed (if you so choose), to allow you to continue unhindered on your journey through life.

Any less is not enough.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Little Death

Philosophy time. This is something that's been worrying me for a few weeks now... and I don't know if I should even be worried about it or happy about it.

It all started through a bunch of discussions we had at work, talking about whether if you magically created an atomically identical clone of yourself, and destroyed your original body at the same time (as happens in most realistic ideas of teleportation), would that clone really be you? Sure, the clone would feel that it was you, but would you (whatever that means) still experience living on as the clone? The usual response was that no, because that clone had no continuity of experience with you. It wasn't the same person because at some point, it had not had the experience of being you. But you had that experience, and so you were the same person.

The thing is, every single discussion I've ever heard on this topic hinges on the fact that I am me because I've always been me, and I have a continuous unbroken chain of continuity between the first me that I remember and me now.

I don't think that's the case. I think we're taking for granted something that we have assumed but never really shown; that just because usually, moment to moment, our experience of this world is continuous, that we have some magical property of continuity of experience. And that we, being people, are somehow special because of it.

When you go under general anaesthetic, it's not dark or fuzzy. It's not black. It's nothing. You don't exist and then as you come out from under it, *bam*. Suddenly you are awake and sensing and perceiving and it feels like it never left off... but it did. There's a gap in there, hours long, where you were a not-person. "You" didn't exist.

Every time you are truly, properly unconscious, you die. When your body recovers and starts processing information again, you are reborn. Is it really you? It's the same types of atoms in the same configuration, but then again so is the teleported clone in the first example. You can never cross the same river twice. In the same way, maybe we die and are reborn every once in a while... or every day, or every instant.

Something to think about.

Friday, July 27, 2012

3D Vision Is Broken With Multiple Monitors

More accurately, "My Asus VG278H won't enable the IR emitter and synch with the 3D Vision 2 glasses that came with it, unless it's the only monitor attached to my computer, or the 3D application in question is running in a windowed mode." Diablo 3 works fine in 3D (but I run in Fullscreen Windowed), but none of the other games I have (all via Steam) work. They appear to be rendering both views but my monitor refuses to activate the IR emitter and synch up with the shutter glasses. Disconnecting my second monitor, for some reason, makes the IR emitter work. Hurrah.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Constructing a Diminutive Velocipede

This is something I've wanted to do for a while, and a week ago I bit the bullet and did it.

Required bits:
  • A 26" mountain bike

  • A 10" - 12" scooter or child's bike

Required utensils:
  • Hacksaw

  • Angle grinder

  • Some form of welder

Begin by cutting the front off the bike with the hacksaw, at the red lines shown below. Also, cut the handle bars shorter (I cut just inside the stock handgrips) and remove the stem that holds the handle bars in place. We'll weld the handle bars on directly for a more scale appearance.

Once you've done this, use the angle grinder to shape the stub of the stem so that it fits neatly with the shortened handle bars. Clamp the bars in the right position, tack weld them in place, and when you're happy with the alignment, weld them on. Remember to always clean any paint, rust etc. off the metal surfaces before welding.

Cut the seat post to length (I made mine around 100mm long), once again shape it with the angle grinder so that it fits neatly on the top of the down tube, and weld it in place. This geometry isn't very strong, so cut a short length of pipe (I got mine from one of the seat stays) and use it as a brace to support the seat post. You can see the seat post support propped in place ready to weld.

In order to get a better shape to the frame, I simply cut a wedge out of the down-tube (leaving it attached by a strip across the top) and re-welded it in place. In this picture you can also seat the seat post support properly welded in place.

Next, I needed a rear wheel. At the recycling station near work, I found a kids' 10" scooter which fit the bill.

It was a simple job to neaten up the cut end of the frame, cut off the scooter's front fork, and weld it in place at the rear. I'm still very new to welding, and the wall of the tube on the right is maybe 2mm thick, so I had a hard time making them stick without blowing a hole in the tubing.

You should now have something ridable, but the colour scheme leaves somewhat to be desired.

As this was to be prop for The Great Steampunk Affaire, bare brushed metal was fully appropriate. However, I plan to paint the frame black to prevent corrosion.

I'd initially planned for electric propulsion, but it ended up being quite practical to merely kick it along until I got up to speed, and then coast for a while. It was certainly a lot of fun on the night. :D

Friday, March 25, 2011

Pascal's Wager

I'm sure we've all heard of Pascal's Wager in some form. The general logic runs that "if there is no God, then what I believe holds no consequence, but if there IS a God, then believing in Him is a significant net benefit." This makes a lot of sense... in fact Blaise Pascal himself trusted it to get him out of any awkward situations in which, after he died, he discovered that there in fact WAS a God.

What's kind of scary is when you reverse the logic. "If there is, in fact, a God, despite the utter lack of any rational evidence of Him - then I'm screwed, because I chose to take the path which I was created to take. If there is no God, then religion, that structure which we humans have created around the presumed existance of an irrational, pathological creator, has caused more harm than we know how to repair."