Posts Tagged ‘php’

Vacation with Saturn and proplyds

I'm in the parking lot of a motel staring at spectacular red and buff cliffs! It's the Kaibab Limestone and the Coconino sandstone and that other red rock formation I forget the name of. Spiky little lizards are playing on the fence next to me.

After a great but exhausting week at ETech and SXSWi, I'm on vacation in Arizona with a rental car and no particular plan. Last night in Sedona we picked up a flyer in the Super8 lobby, for Evening Sky Tours which I pictured as a couple of old retired guys out in a parking lot picking up some spare cash for new lenses by showing off their amateur astronomy knowledge. While this was close to the truth the Adventure was run in a scarily businesslike and professional manner and rather than being a once a week or sporadic deal it was clearly a real job. Three guys pulled up with a trailer or two full of telescopes with a D**'s mount sort of a huge wooden box like a box kite with mirrors stuck in and lenses and spotting scopes stuck on! They had a row of folding chairs with wooly blankets laid out. Reclining lawn chairs would have been more the thing.
The main dude went around in a bossy way reminding his employees the telescope flunkies to "tell 'em what they're lookin' at". It was excellent. They did an especially good job of saying "In Africa" or "In the MIddle East" when talking about the names of stars and the history of astronomical discoveries.

As the Milky Way began to slide into our consciousness we saw a few satellites and every time I wanted to scream "Satellite!!!" Might have done just that. We had out our G1 Skymaps at first but put them away so as not to be assholes. I knew Orion, Taurus, Cassiopeia, the Pleiades, the Big Dipper and North Star, and that is about it. With luck I can spot Cygnus and the Corona Borealis. Zond-7 knew where Sirius was, which impressed me. I guessed where Gemini was, but got it wrong. Then I did what one of the astronomy dudes suggested and learned "Arc to Arcturus" and "Spike to Spica". Now I know a new thing!

The Night Sky Adventure dudes explained what we were looking at very well and were patient and sweet about all the questions. It was a little hard to get them to go into any depth. But it was light years better than going to a planetarium!
Stuff we saw: M51 which is sort of colliding or interacting galaxies, M3 (a globular cluster), M81 and M82 together (they affect each other with tides!), the Beehive Cluster, the Pleiades, a red dwarf star among the Double Cluster,  Mizar A and B and Alcor, (The horse and rider!), Saturn and 5 moons, and a bit of the Orion Nebula where the Trapezium is. We looked at Sirius through a polarized filter to see its spectral lines.

Later, the Wikipedia entry on the Orion Nebula turned out to be incredibly great; hello, iron tipped glowing blue "bullets" of supersonic incandescent gas. It just got more and more extreme and crazy in the descriptions. Keep reading. It gets better and better. Like this:

The green hue was a puzzle for astronomers in the early part of the 20th century because none of the known spectral lines
at that time could explain it. There was some speculation that the
lines were caused by a new element, and the name "nebulium" was coined
for this mysterious material. With better understanding of atomic
physics, however, it was later determined that the green spectra was
caused by a low-probability electron transition in doubly ionized oxygen, a so-called "forbidden transition".

In between lurching up from my wheelchair to peer through telescopes, I kept saying over the things we'd seen, so that I could look them up later. "You must have studied this!" one woman said in amazement. "No…. I'm just repeating to myself what the guy just told us…"

I don't mean this meanly, but I have forgotten how dumb most people are. Or maybe not dumb but just, without the most basic snippets of information about things like what a moon or a constellation or a galaxy is. Compared to our amateur astronomer hosts Zond-7 and I were just a couple of people who grew up liking science magazines and who might read the Planetary Society blog once in a while. But the people around us, holy crap. One lady was asking what it meant for something to be a moon. As we explained (super nicely) she *got it* that moons go around a planet, and planets go around the Sun, and so the moons are also going around the Sun at the same time, but with extra wiggling. I could see her getting it, even in the dark! Zond-7 explained very clearly to someone else what it meant for Saturn to be in Leo (which it was). Earlier, someone else went "Is there a thing called a .. a 'quark'?" and boy howdy did I feel like Mr. Peabody just able to say "It's a tiny elementary particle" Zond-7 asked if she meant quasar, but she meant quarks which were mentioned in a movie she saw. When I hung out with large feral packs of theoretical physicists I noticed how they would speak with disdain of washed-up media whores meaning anyone who ever talked to the press or wrote a popular science article. Meanwhile I wish popular science was more popular and more people would learn how to explain (with strangeness and charm) what a quark is to a regular person.

Anyway, I was struck by how much people don't know. We don't need to know it, people go around and function and are smart as anything, but I forget that most people don't care for some of the things I like to know. And I was struck by the thought that I am used to being around people who do know and who have a fairly huge internal database of random knowledge not applicable to their daily life. The people who came to the astronomy event were self selected to be people who were interested and curious and willing to learn stuff, unlike the general population. I am not trying to be judgmental on people by saying this, it is just that I felt a gulf suddenly between my assumptions about what's in people's heads all around me, and what actually is. Heather Gold at SXSWi in her talk show at Plutopia touched on this rather sweetly when she mentioned the movie Powers of Ten and said "You know, like that thing you do in bed when you're a little kid, where you imagine you're in your address, St. Louis, Missouri, United States, North America, Northern Hemisphere, Earth, The Solar System, Milky Way, like that? … and the crowd just kind of stared at her…. As Heather did, I assumed everyone did that! Did you? But no – not everyone spends hours poring over photographs of galaxies and nebulae and reading encyclopedia articles. I have not felt like a freak for having a lot of book learning for a long time, not for years. As a kid that was a hard lesson – I thought all reasonable people would automatically know what mitochondria were, and so on.
This crowd, the idea of spectral lines was going to be so completely over their heads that it was impossible for the guys to explain anything. I was glad they showed it anyway.

Meanwhile, I don't know the parts of an engine or how to fix a toilet or knit a sweater or take someone's blood pressure as probably the people on our Star Tour do know.

Saturn's moons freaked me out the most. They just hang there. The light reflected from Saturn shades them like our Moon is shaped and shaded by Earthlight. They were more surreal to me than Saturn itself, because they looked so three dimensional.

There is a flythrough of a 3-D model of the Orion Nebula! Can't wait to try it!

When we get home I have a book called Agnotology waiting for me which promises to be about theories of Not Knowing. What don't we know? And why don't we? And how does that affect us?

One last note, Zond-7 asked one of the astronomy dudes how many stars
were in a galaxy and was told a trillion.  He gently drew out the guy a
little more and then shut up. Later in the car he told me that the
trillion stars theory was in the process of being debunked, as it is
based on "a trillion solar masses" but like 99.999 % of that is dark
matter so there are likely not a trillion stars in the galaxy at ALL.
Speaking of Agnotology!

If you are wondering about a proplyd you may go read the article on the Orion Nebula! Happy pointless knowledge voyage!

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LibraryThing is hiring in Maine!

LibraryThing wants YOU if you’re ass enough to live in Maine where it is freezing cold and stuff! I’m passing this on because I totally want the $1000 of free books if they hire someone who heard it from me.

By the way, BlogHer could also use a good PHP/Drupal developer if you’re in the Bay Area! Talk to me…

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Bank buildings and hurricane comics

I drove down from Burlingame to my town half the length of El Camino Real, today, and felt very odd as I passed various WaMu and Wachovia & other bank buildings. What will happen? Are we ending up with two or three huge U.S. banks?

Why the heck is Palin in Burlingame today? Fundraising?

I liked this article that had real empathy for Palin: http://ta-nehisicoates.theatlantic.com/archives/2008/09/sarah_we_are_not_that_different_you_and_i.php

From conversation between me and Cyn last night on the WisCon trolling: “Not every woman is my ally. But I still have to treat every woman as my possible future ally.”

Can anyone deconstruct this comic book for me? Superheros funded by FEMA fight the Hurricane, fail, but then are helped by the Legion of Linemen to set up telephone service again. Flatlandman’s despair at his failure is assuaged by The People Helping Each Other by sharing food, water, and electricity while they all work to clean up debris.

http://blogs.chron.com/hurricanes/2008/10/_superheros_save_the_gulf_coas_1.html

Hmmmm. I imagine our future will have more strange art like this as the economy continues to tank.

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Here is a picture of me, right this minute

take a photo right now meme

I was thinking today of this time when a friend of mine said at a poetry reading, a big group one that I’d been going to for at least a couple of years, “I’m so grateful your husband lets you come out to these things” and I nearly keeled over from shock and laughter. Seriously I started laughing my ass off. “Let me”? Now that is something I have never in my relationship with Rook felt for a single second controlled either one of us. We don’t “let” each other do stuff. I really think we are just ourselves.

Somehow this got me thinking of my relationship in college with my old boyfriend Dr. Dick. I dated him from when I was 18 to when I was 20 or so and we lived together for most of that time in a big co-op. I thought how maddening it was that he would never talk about anything. But he would listen to all my crazy ideas and shit. Basically, it was like this blog, all 5 million words of it, but coming out of my mouth every night. But then as things started to go weird, I had less to say. He would go, *long silence*… “What are you thinking.” And I would, basically to avoid saying what I was actually thinking which was OMG FUCK YOU WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE WHY DON’T YOU EVER TALK, I would start babbling distractedly about whatever came into my head. If I said “What are YOU thinking” or more neutrally, “I dunno what about you?” He would just handwave and turn it back on me. Somehow, this combined with a strange life where he knew when I had class, and my work schedule, and my co-op work things, and if I went out the door of our (shared with many people) living room to the outside, he’d always ask me where I had been, which got to feeling like he was suspicious and weird, because I’d go, “Laundry room” and he’d go, “But you were gone an hour” and I’d feel a giant SURGE OF RAGE at having just washed his fucking clothes along with mine, but would tamp it down and go, “Yeah I stopped by the TV room and hung out watching star trek with some people” and he’d go, “Oh? Who?” and I’d then use the Distracting Babble technique to get us out of that kind of conversation. So, this rarely got direct, but you can see it was nasty. Ever been in a relationship like that? If you just pretend it’s not there, you can act freely. Have you ever done that?

As some of you imaginary long-term readers may recall, the creepy punchline is that all along, Dr. Dick was secretly engaged to this woman who had moved out to Austin with him as his fiancee but agreed to live separately so as not to be distracted from their PhDs. WHO FUCKING KNEW. So he would go off and have sex with her at lunch. And she never, ever, came to his place – how is that? How? At least she was like 1 million times dumber than me… Man! I felt really bad for her too and the nice bit of the story is she went off, married someone else, had 2 kids as fast as possible, and I hope lived happily ever after. Anyway, while she was off in a women’s dorm, I lived with her fiancee (!!!) basically like we were married. The truth all came out in a giant wave of drama when the fiancee approached me at random as her boyfriend’s cute next door neighbor who she propositioned — she thought she was snagging an HBB for her man. It went so, so, wrong.

In contrast to that tangle of lies and paranoia and silence, and in contrast to the expectations of my poetry-writing friend as to the conditions of interpersonal relationships, in 10 years with Rook I don’t think either one of us has done anything more than say “I’d like to go to Finland” or “I’m in love with this other person too” or “What if I change careers”. The other person has always kind of gone, “Huh.” and then we talk about it. But there is no LETTING… or permission-giving.

How otherwise could any sane person tolerate life? I’d like to know?

The other thing that popped into my head tonight was a series of photos one of my friends did. Sabina took a ton of photos of all of us, people she was close to, and said it was for a project. She let us look at all the proofs and pick out the one we liked best of ourselves as a portrait. At the end of the project she showed us sort of an exhibit, and she explained. Every person had 2 photos mounted on the wall. The first was the one that they picked, the way they see themselves or want to be seen. The second was *how she saw them, their essential self or personality*. The whole thing was horrifying. Barb had picked something where she was dressed up, girly, uncomfortable and tight looking. Sabina had picked one of her that was just… the same way I saw Barb… smiling, full of hilarity to the point of painfulness, intense as hell. (But, if you knew her, you would know that she would see only that it made her nose look too big, or something that her friends would never think of.) Paul I think had picked a very Arty looking photo of himself with one of his sculptures looking very Brooding Young Man About Town but Sabina had put next to it one where he was looking right at the camera very sweetly – a person essentially sweet and a little confused…. Oh, the horrid truth! In the photo of me that I’d picked out, I was sitting – maybe on his lap but maybe just next to – with Dr. Dick and all my body language self-effaced and went “I am a couple” and “My attention is all on this man”. I swear to god… I was *simpering*. It was not till I saw the rest of the exhibit, and the two photos together, that I realized: I’d picked it because it looked like what I thought “happy couple” should be and because startlingly Dr. Dick did not look like an alcoholic zombie in that photo (as he usually did) and I wanted a nice picture of us together. In the photo of me that Sabina picked out, I was pensive and a little out of focus, surrounded by books. I think Dr. Dick was very blurry in the background, far away. It contained all her love and pity, I think, for where I was and couldn’t quite be as a person, as a feminist. You’ve had fantastic friends with shitty partners, and wished you could jolt them out of it, but knew you couldn’t and they’d take their own sweet time and you just hope they become *more themselves*? Yeah me too. Yet: I could swear even now that most people thought I was free, was myself, was perhaps remarkably so to the point of being “inspiring”: Sabina saw I wasn’t. I was that person who was not quite being herself; limiting myself and “letting” myself be limited. Staring at Sabina’s portrait of me as her beloved friend, I realized right down to my core that she had taken a photo of Actual Me. It was like a photo of the Me of my journals, a self that didn’t have a public home and that I didn’t know how to live as. Thanks Sabina!

I thought tonight of the person I was in 1989 who would babble to avoid the questions about where I was and who I talked to and wondered, which bits of that self are still in there? How am I behaving? How am I sort of messed up? I appreciate the ways I have grown bigger – and more free. It feels like I stretched and stretched and kept going and never stopped or was satisfied, always wanting to be new. But I am also still that person from 1989 – and also the 16 year old girl cowering on the kitchen floor screaming about Constitutional Rights and free love as her dad spit in her face. And who will I be 10 years from now? How do we contain all these selves? I feel like a whole person, a free person. What is the lesson of Sabina’s photographs, besides that you are not entirely who you think you are?

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Hurricane, vote caging, leg failure

Here’s what’s on my mind today:

*Projected path of Hurricane Ike
* another map from the City of Houston
* http://blogs.chron.com/sciguy/archives/2008/09/ike_now_likely.html

Michigan Republicans being super damned sleazy, underhanded, Lose your house, lose your vote working to delay voters, disenfranchise people under threat of losing their homes

My family in general, my mom’s dad is in the hospital, she is flying out there (out of Houston, tomorrow morning, right in middle of the evacuation) to go to him, and I wish she wouldn’t on about a million levels

Slipped today, from weeks of mostly walking on crutches about a 4.0 – 6.0, back down to a 6.5 which is a major difference for me. It means I need a bathtub rail, I have a hard time picking stuff up off the floor, I can’t really walk around even the bedroom without both crutches. Compared to walking around the house and the office pretty freely without even a cane. Fingers crossed it is just a little blip and I will be frisky again tomorrow morning. I just walked all through the grocery store and felt super happy, though achey from it, and then… bang, half an hour later got up from bed and fell forward to grab the door and hold myself up in a giant panic till Rook brought me the crutches. If it lasts then I will have a harder time. I’m so grateful for my good, lightweight, awesome wheelchair.

It was back to school night, all pretty interesting; I took notes and will blog it later on badgermama.

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Riot grrl zine nostalgia

Hey! I nearly forgot to blog about it. I’m reading tomorrow night for SFinX for the Rebel Girl event. I like how there will be cupcakes. Come on by and I’ll give you a VINTAGE RIOT GRRL ZINE and a hot pink riot grrrlz outer space pin if I can find them.

Also, check out this link. ahahah! cover: hot pink

dude zomg also my illustrated reprint of SCUM Manifesto was in a special exhibit at Duke:
Word of a Woman: 40 Years of Feminist Publishing.

“S.C.U.M. Manifesto, reprinted by Lizzard Amazon, Riot Grrrlz Outerspace, 1993. From the Sarah Dyer Zine Collection. Valerie Solanas’ Society for Cutting Up Men (S.C.U.M.) Manifesto is the most famous of the late 1960′s radical feminist manifestos. Third wave feminists republished this and other seminal second wave manifestos in order to spread the message to a new generation of women.”

yayyy!

Anyway here’s the event details for tomorrow night.

Saturday, 8/23, 7:30
San Francisco in eXile presents
REBEL GIRL: a riot grrrl nostalgia show

Saturday, August 23rd
7pm doors, 7:30 show
Center for Sex & Culture, 1519 Mission Street, San Francisco
$10-20 sliding scale (nobody turned away)
[CSC can accept VISA, Mastercard, and Discover]

Featuring:
CELESTE CHAN
GINA DE VRIES
MELISSA GIRA
….errrrrr LIZZARD AMAZON
LEAH LAKSHMI PIEPZNA-SAMARASINHA
NOMY LAMM
ZULEIKA MAHMOOD

Curated by Gina de Vries.

It’s Revolution Grrrl-Style, Now! — with tongue firmly planted in
cheek. Past and present zinestars and grrrl revolutionaries will tell
stories of old, and let you know what they’ve been up to recently.
Zines and cupcakes will be available for purchase.

Also, see the adorable press we got in the Guardian here!:

http://www.sfbg.com/entry.php?entry_id=6963&catid=85&volume_id=317&issue_id=392&volume_num=42&issue_num=47&l=1#SATURDAY_23

Also, if you’re broke, you can get in for free by helping folks with
disabilities get in the elevator, or handling the door. You will also
get free cupcakes for doing this. Email me at queershoulder@gmail.com
for details.

Also, these are some of the fabulous zines that will be available:
*Stick and Stones, by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha
*Letters from the war years: some notes on love and struggle in times
of war, by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha
*The Revolution Starts At Home: Confronting Partner Abuse in Activist
Communities, edited by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha
*Slut Utopia, by Lizzard Henry
*Riot Grrrlz Outer Space, by Lizzard Henry
*The Illustrated SCUM Manifesto, by Lizzard Henry
*the wombs and the browns, by Zuleikha Mahmoud
*letters forged by the daughter putting on her scarf in the masjid
parking lot, by Zuleikha Mahmoud
*… AND MORE!!

You better come see us!

xox,
g.

– queershoulder.livejournal.com /// sfinx.org

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Foolish overuse of those leg-like objects

And maybe of the hand-parts too. Oh well. I know! I’ll lie around typing some more!! SMRT.

Today was fabulous, I enjoyed the programming stuff for work and all my co-workers, crept out for lunch with Minnie & persuaded notcalm to come with us to hang in my back yard with my baby nephew. Mr. Pants does indeed love to fix a bicycle with whatever tools come to hand. He picks up a spoon or whatever, and studies the bicycle. Then he carefully touches the bicycle all over with the tool. He’s so awesome! Minnie and I devoured our fried chicken from Betty’s.

face washing while playing with tripod

We gossiped mightily. I think my favorite part of the conversation was an unprintable statement from one of the three of us about people we know who might expect to have sex with other people we know, two weeks after a c-section. I mimed the hand gesture of leg-parting and a quizzical glance to see if all was well in there before diving in. Ahahaahh! We discussed some of the details of the first 6 weeks of life after giving birth. That’s all I’m at liberty to say. I also realized at lunch that Minnie would understand all the bits of things I’m doing at work and would likely have good advice.

I thought I would use my newly affirmed powers of dashing and sprinting to hobble into Savers and get Moomin a jacket. Uhhh maybe that was too much. Got jackets though. Then was passing grocery outlet and thought “Oh, I can walk so well, I’ll get a soda!” and bought some soda and juice but was totally falling over and regretting that I ever got out of bed. Uhhhhh! Whoops! And so to work. I had that moment of trying not to whimper out loud, wanting to lie down and cry, and then was able to just push it aside. Sometimes concentration is really useful. I got to the point in the last few days where I “know” where I am geographically while poking around in directories on three different servers, four if you count my laptop as one of them since i have stuff on it too, and weird bits of code everywhere. So, our thing works! It was wildly exciting to push the button and see all the directories and the bits of code magically appear! I wish I had time to go understand what J. did in the back end of drupal with the hook, or action, or whatever, which looks like a sort of skeleton of it doing something & then some extra php. I did not read it but stuck to my little bits and then to messing with the javascript parts. J. fixed the IE problem by breaking it all up into bits and nesting the html and the js. It was extremely clever.

I then hauled ass to go pick up moomin at camp. i sent him back in to pay for the after care realizing i needed to cut the walking attempts. ohhhhh. warning sign number MILLION that I completely ignored. Then, back to my work (10 min away in traffic) and i thought, Oh, well, maybe i could send him in for my phone (which i forgot and realized must ahve fallen into the couch cushions.) I can get the wireless from the parking lot… and notcalm sent my phone down with hedonia. I thought moomin woudl balk at being sent in, but he liked the idea. (Warning sign number 2 million, i knew i could not walk up to the office again) Then home!

Where I then tottered about the yard a little because it was nice out! And then made snacks and dinner for 3 children and then a giant salad (mostly sitting down b/c i was losing it then) for me and rook and zond-7! and then washed the dishes and realized I was going to FUCKING DIE

Took celebrex, cursed self a bit, laid down, successfully disappeared into Zond-7′s python (django) and twill and sql stuff which was totally fascinating (and i was helpful i think) Now I can’t wait to make some nifty tests with twill! omg! handy! I pushed past the whole “lie there and cry and whimper” moment again and had a nice time. But, I admitted it was bad and started asking for help to get stuff, open the windows, etc. My hands are in a lot of pain too. i wonder if it is from the attempts at digging and gardening? Or from the excessive leaning on crutches, so much harder than wheeling?

I really love my life. I was reading the bit in the Ben Franklin biography where it describes how all his life he loved to live in a household that was lively with swarms of children and bustling domesticity. I don’t know about all my life…. heh… I’d hate that. I’d hate to have to do it all the time. But I really enjoy the moments when the house is full of people and I have just fed them, or given them all scissors and tape or a rake and a mission, and the kids are swirling about underfoot, emitting strange kid-rays. colliding with reality in all different ways, glowing with excitement.

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Programming stuff at work

Today I figured out how to do some more things in php, which I totally don’t know, but it is much like Perl in some ways and I vaguely remember some Perl and have php.net at hand to look things up. J. and I debugged things at work all day in a tenative and unnerved way. It is good to have someone to work with. If I had listened to her and put my stuff in svn, it would have been a good thing. Also, I thought through how to store like 10,000 files in a directory structure. (Looking it up and reading first, but it still had the weird feel of re-inventing the wheel when I thought all the way through it and compared it to other ways of doing things and how it would be scalable, and it made me happy that my programmery instincts are correct.) I also felt proud that I caught yet another very horrible architectural problem which would have killed the project.

It is very interesting to me how different me and J’s styles are. I am not used to seeing people do this kind of work not in unix. We have totally different backgrounds of knowledge & methods just to do the work. Hers is very fast and she understands its map. But watching her, I am completely lost. I think watching me on a command line also loses her. I thought about that as I busted out some hoary doorstop of a sys-admin book that I had in like 1993 and the book was about half “how to use either vi or emacs”. Mind boggling! Anyway my point about the book is really that, sometimes those older books are more clear to me (and yet go into more detail) than available documentation is now.

I continue keeping my scripty stuff separate on my own server where I feel like I have control, and can test it and know how to do that, and then when the little bits work I give them to J. and she puts them into the drupal module as php functions. To test it she has to sort of make a whole admin interface and then is using “watchdog” to see output. But, I desperately need a command line to understand anything going on! It’s just simpler!

We were good at keeping each other going throughout the day. There is so much work to do in general that it is easy to just keep interrupting yourself and chipping away at things-to-be-done, and let the hard problems lie fallow. It is very helpful to have someone else saying “have you done X yet” or to approach a debugging problem a completely different way (that might be the wrong way but that suddenly lets you see another possible tactic.) I am haunted by knowing that a really good programmer would just know what they are doing, and could write in a day or two what we are doing in 2 weeks. I am so glad she knows the drupal stuff because I have not had time to really look at it yet. At least now I know where all the files are and have started to read the settings files and understand its guts.

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Book reviews from the past, old computer hardware

Funny but I just got mail from someone who remembered one of my first web sites from 1996 and was looking for it. I went back to check it out and it’s pretty amusing. I stuck to a list of all the books I read with short descriptions. 12 years ago, and I still sound like myself. Bookmaniac does show me that I read quite a bit more in the past and how far my habits have changed.

I started reading Starfish by Peter Watts last night, realized it was brilliant but insanely disturbing, and put it down in favor of the blah-blah exposition of CJ Cherryh’s Downbelow Station. That got me to sleep!

Yesterday in the middle of the day my leg completely conked out. I have no explanation for this, as usual. It was achey in the small of my back, but it wasn’t till I stood up that the intense hot stabby shooting pains and buzzing down the leg fired up. After I’d been walking really well all week! No fair! Then I tried to crutch into the fabric store to get “solar system project” supplies for Moomin. Aaaa! Oh well.

Then, I voted, this time not being too brave with the crutches. On Measure O, increase sales tax for supporting parks and open space, I was torn but finally voted for it because the people arguing against it included our local utter lunatic libertarian, Jerk Hickey. Every time that man opens his mouth I marvel that he ever got onto the hospital board or anything else.

Obama’s speech, y’all! How fantastic was that! The shots of the crowd & him walking through, touching everyone’s hands. Just for laughs I read freerepublic for a bit and then watched McCain’s really horrible speech where he was just phoning it in. I was reminded of the terrible moments of the roboticness of Bob Dole and I have to say, Al Gore’s total incompetence in his presidential race, slathered with makeup, smirking, and irksomely smartypantsy even to me. (Voted for him anyway.) How nice it is to have a competent demogogue on our side for once. More to the point I actually believe Obama will push like hell to shake things up in DC, and make things better for people. Please, a populist leftist…. for real…

Mostly I could not get around last night without both crutches, even across the room or to the bathroom. That really sucked! I think today is the same.

Zond-7 and I laid around and in fact worked fairly intensely. I helped out with some work stuff, php stuff, learned some vim tricks, and then we ended up talking about sf and about computers and went on a long riff of computer hardware we have known and loved and “how i got a particular computer or shell account 15 years ago and how I felt about it”. I particularly liked his description of his first hackery conference (Dutch one) where you had ethernet cables to your tent, his description of setting up the tent for practice in soho square, then the flickering tents all around, the sounds of the river nearby mixed with rumble and explosions of people playing Quake. I described the premises of Cyteen; we talked about Blindsight and Starfish some more; we commiserated over our physical ailments.

(more…)

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DIY: Access Hacks project

For the second year in a row, I thought of the wheelchair modification and disability access projects that could and should be at Maker Faire. I’d like to make that happen next year.

At Maker Faire this year, I talked with Miguel Valenzuela, who was showing Lift Assist, a toilet lift device that can be built for $150 out of bits of PVC and junk from a hardware store, powered hydraulically from your own water system. That kind of thing costs thousands of dollars if you buy it as a medical device. If it were a DIY kit, and if it had open source plans and instructions up on the web, it could be useful to thousands of people all over the world.

So I got to thinking. Who would I even hook Miguel up with, to get his plans used? What other projects are spreading disability access devices, open source? Could things like this just be given over to an organization like Engineers Without Borders? How can they be open sourced or copylefted?

There are specific projects like Whirlwind Wheelchair International and its design for the Rough Rider chair, developed by Ralf Hotchkiss and students over many years and meant to be distributed to shops or factories or organizations in developing nations. In other words, partnership with actual manufacturers. There’s the Free Wheelchair Mission which has a kit to build wheelchairs for under $50. They seem to take donations and then ship a giant crate of wheelchair kits to somewhere in the world. Those both look great. But neither of them were for a disabled person who might want to build their own stuff.

Then I found some nifty sites like Marty’s Gearability blog, which has a DIY category for “Life with limitations and the gear that makes things work”. She has made dozens of posts on modifications she’s made for her dad, who uses a wheelchair. I especially enjoyed the how-to for a wheelchair cup holder.

I’m also somewhat familiar with Adafruit Industries and its projects like SpokePOV. What if assistive devices used something closer to this model? Rather than people patenting, and trying to sell their designs to a medical supply company, which marks it up a million times until disabled people in the U.S. can’t afford them unless they have insurance or can wait 5 years and fight a legal battle with Medicare.

I found organizations like Remap in the UK, that takes applications from individual disabled people, and hooks them up with an engineer who will build them a custom device. This I think exemplifies the well meaning but ill advised attempts to help disabled people through a “charity” model rather than through widespread empowerment. If an engineer is donating time and an invention, why not have them write up and donate the plans for whatever they are building, and post the DIY instructions for free? Then, thousands of people all over the world could build that invention for themselves.

OneSwitch, on the other hand, has the right idea. It’s a compendium of DIY electronics projects to build assistive devices. Perfect!

Meanwhile, I went looking for the latest news in open source hardware. What’s up with the Open Source Hardware License?

My own inventions for assistive devices have tended towards the creative yet slapdash use of duct tape. For example, my Duct Tape Crutch Pockets, an idea easily adaptable to small pouches for forearm crutches and canes, or to get more storage space onto your wheelchair.

My own canes and crutches that fold (with internal bungee cords) could use simple velcro closure straps to keep them folded up while they’re in my backpack or in the car. There are some ingenious ways, also, to attach canes or crutches to a wheelchair.

I have thought of, but not made, ways to extend storage space further. For example, I think that the lack of pockets in women’s clothing is a political issue. Women’s clothes are mostly designed without pockets, because of cultural pressure to look skinny, so women end up encumbered by bags and purses. If you think about how wheelchairs are made, it is interesting that they are assumed not to need storage space, cup holders, things like that. People hang little backpacks off their chairs. And there are a few custom made pouches for walkers, crutches, and wheelchairs, like this thin armrest pouch. You won’t find them in an actual wheelchair store – and rarely in a drugstore or medical supply house. Why not?

As wheelchair designs continue to evolve, I hope that manufacturers will create customizable backs and sides and seats. Nylon webbing with d-rings, sewn into the backs and under the seats of wheelchairs, would mean that custom pouches and packs could clip onto a chair. Then it would be easy to set up your chair with interchangeable bits. My laptop could go in a pouch under the seat, for example, so that it wouldn’t affect my center of gravity so drastically as it hangs off the seat back in a backpack.

I’d like to see more and more mods for chairs and canes and crutches that are just for fun. The little holes in adjustable-height, hollow metal walking canes — don’t they seem like the perfect size to stick an LED light in there?

Also, meanwhile, I had posted briefly the other day for Blogging Against Disablism Day 2008 with a list of ideas for Practical actions that will help, like smoothing out steps into a small business (ie just freaking pour some asphalt in there or build a wooden wedge even if it is not exactly to code; people do nothing, for fear of being sued, rather than spend thousands to do a to-code ramp, and I’d rather they just stuff in a slope and bolt a rail to the wall than do nothing!). After I made the list, I went looking for online instructions on how to do the things I was suggesting. What did I come up with ? Jack shit! Nothing! Nada!

So, here’s what I propose we do:

- Compile free and open source how-tos, plans, designs, etc. on Disapedia. I have made a page for DIY equipment.

- I will go and interview Hotchkiss and his class, and write up more detail on how their open source project works.

- A meeting to share access hacks and start to add to that wiki page on Disapedia.

- I’ll head up an effort to organize a really good disability/accessibility hacking booth for Maker Faire next year.

For the Access Hacks booth, I’d like to pull in:
- craft/sewing people for stuff like mobility device storage and mods with velcro and fabric
- metal working people
- electronics people (like the OneSwitch folks)
- Maybe invite Tech Shop and the Bay Area wheelchair stores to participate
- obviously, disabled crafty/makery people. I thought I could try to pull in GimpGirl and put the word out in other communities
- Flyers on how to open source your hack and make it free – license info, where to post, hook up with places like WikiHow.

This could make a super fantastic real life application for hardware/craft hacks. I would love to just hang out all weekend with a bunch of other people with disabilities and share whatever hacks we’ve already come up with. That in itself would be productive without even doing it at Maker Faire. I’d like an Access Hacks meeting around here and I wonder if people would host them elsewhere and then post tips on Disapedia. (I would like to use them rather than host a new wiki, but I’m willing to make an access hacks wiki if that’s what people would like.)

Please, leave feedback in the comments.

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