Communion Of Dreams

That’s the problem with slaying dragons.
August 9, 2009, 1:06 pm
Filed under: Alzheimer's, General Musings, Guns, Health, SCA, Survival

An old SCA friend was in town for a visit, and we got together for lunch. After, we came back to the house, since she hadn’t been here since forever. As we went through the place, showing her how we had settled in, we got back here to my office where I also have my reloading bench and my big safe for guns and rare books waiting to be worked on. She hadn’t remembered that aspect of my life from way back when, and was a little curious. After discussing the matter a bit, she asked whether I also hunted.

“Haven’t in years, though I used to a fair amount. Grew up hunting. I’m thinking that it’s about time I did a bit again. We’ll see.”

* * * * * * *

I just checked my blood pressure. 123/90. Yeah, the diastolic is a little high, but my bp tends to be up a bit in the morning. Still, that is dramatically better than when I wrote this 11 months ago:

Actually, my blood pressure was scary bad. When the aide took it earlier, she was startled by how high it was. Let’s put it this way – it’s in the range where if it were just a bit higher, hospitalization would be indicated in most cases. If I walked into an ER with that blood pressure, people would start rushing around.

What was my bp then? Well, I was hesitant to say, since it was so bad, and I didn’t want to cause concern among my friends and family. But it was averaging 230/120. Like I said, scary bad.

But as time has gone on, and I have worked with my doc to tweak meds this way and that, we’ve gotten it under control. As I expected we would. Which has allowed me to write here that I am a lot healthier than I really have any right to be, considering the stresses I have placed myself under these past few years. So it was from that perspective that I had this email exchange with a friend this morning:

Me: “Though I don’t actually feel old yet. I did for a while, there, but not so much now.

Hmm. I should think more about that.”

My friend: “That would make sense, actually. You’re not in pain from your own chronic illness, nor exhausted from trying to be a caregiver for someone in the last throes of hers.”

* * * * * * *

I never really *enjoyed* hunting. Not in the sense some people think of hunting as just going out and killing things, anyway. No, I grew up hunting from a young age, and just took it for granted that it was something you did. When I got older, and grew more reflective on why I did the things I did, I still found that hunting was a good thing for me to do.

Why? Well, I thought then, and still think today, that if you are a meat-eater you should occasionally actually go kill something and then clean and butcher the animal. It helps keep me honest about the fact that with every bit of meat I eat that an animal died.

Oh, there are other aspects of hunting I enjoyed. Getting out in the woods/fields. Challenging my skill with firearms. Making me more aware of the sights and sounds around me. Maybe being with friends or family, though I have just as often hunted alone. I usually enjoyed sharing the meat with friends – wild game just tastes so much better, and few people have the opportunity these days to enjoy it.

But I didn’t enjoy cleaning the game, or even the actual killing part. Necessary, yes. But not enjoyable. Not for me.

* * * * * * *

I have been . . . avoiding . . . working on the caregiving book for the last couple of months. Oh, not consciously. But it is clear to me upon reflection that I have managed to keep myself too busy with this, or that, so that I never seemed to get back to working on the book.

It is about 2/3rds done. Maybe more. My co-author and I made huge progress on the book through the spring. Seriously, about two or three months of work would finish it.

Then why avoid it?

Well, I’ve been thinking about that a lot this last week or two. And I think that it has to do with the fact that I am feeling healthy. That I am largely recovered now from the years of being a care provider. Working on the book earlier this year helped a lot in getting me to this point – helped me to understand and see the whole experience in some context. Yeah, it was really emotional. But coming to terms with those emotions was a good thing. I feel like I have slain my dragons.

And now I just have the carcass to deal with.

Understanding this now, I think it’ll be relatively easy for me to get back to it. I have something to share with others – this isn’t so much about me working through my issues, not any more. It is about helping others to work through theirs. It is sharing the bounty of my hunt, as it were.

Jim Downey

OK, maybe not a total waste.

I’d mentioned previously that I had been up for consideration for appointment to the local Planning & Zoning Commission, but had been mercifully spared selection. Well, when it was my turn to interview for the position with the City Council, it wasn’t just before the Council and city staff – the local press was there. No surprise.

Anyway, earlier this week I got a phone call from a pleasant young man who writes for the MU student newspaper. He had been at the interview, and thought that I might be an interesting subject for an profile piece for a series they’re doing about local weirdos. No, strike that, let’s say “personalities”. Anyway, he asked if I would be willing to chat with him about myself.

“Sure,” I told him. “Let me send you some links for background information. Then you can decide whether you still want to do the piece, and how to approach it.”

This is what I sent him:

Righto. First, here are my own websites/blogs:

My professional site: Legacy Bookbindery
My novel: Communion of Dreams
My personal blog: CommunionBlog
A big ballistics-research project: Ballistics By The Inch
And the related blog: BBTI Blog
My ‘archive’ site: A Fine Line

That last one also contains all the columns I wrote for the Columbia Trib when I was doing that, under the “Art & Culture” heading.

A few years ago someone actually created a Wikipedia page on me (which I need to update): James Downey

Then there’s this forum I created for the Neighborhood Alliance effort in June.

And I’m one of the primary writers at this blog: Unscrewing The Inscrutable

Beyond that, you can search the archives at the Missourian, and the Tribune for stories which have been done about me/my businesses over the years. You might also look under “Legacy Art” or “Legacy Art & BookWorks”, which was the gallery I had downtown (where Slackers is now) for 8 years.

That should get you started. 😉

Thinking about it later, I came to the conclusion that perhaps my life hasn’t been a total waste to date. More than a bit . . . eclectic . . . perhaps, but not a total waste. That’s a good feeling.

Oh, I may have some news this weekend concerning getting Communion published.

Jim Downey

Who hasn’t?
August 6, 2009, 11:37 am
Filed under: Art, Humor, Music, Science Fiction, Space, YouTube

Who hasn’t dreamed of a chicken that can shoot lasers out of its eyes? I mean, really?

OK, for those who wonder what the vid is before watching it, from the source:

The Chickening is a video game about a chicken who shoots lasers. Out of his eyes. Flying pizza shot out of evil cat heads from Paris, France, Uranus have invaded Earth and transformed the President of The United States of Mexico, Robot Abraham Lincoln, into a piece of broccoli. From the center of the earth the Pentagon desperately dispatches their best agent: Agent 69-420 aka The Chickening. His mission: Destroy Everything and Save the Broccoli!


Jim Downey

(OK, now I need some serious drugs to calm down from that . . .) (Oh, and: Via MeFi.)

Meet “HAL”, from the Cyberdyne Corporation.
August 4, 2009, 12:22 pm
Filed under: Predictions, Science, Science Fiction, tech

No, I’m not kidding:

* “Robot Suit HAL” is a cyborg-type robot that can expand and improve physical capability.
* When a person attempts to move, nerve signals are sent from the brain to the muscles via motoneuron, moving the musculoskeletal system as a consequence. At this moment, very weak biosignals can be detected on the surface of the skin. “HAL” catches these signals through a sensor attached on the skin of the wearer. Based on the signals obtained, the power unit is controlled to move the joint unitedly with the wearer’s muscle movement, enabling to support the wearer’s daily activities. This is what we call a ‘voluntary control system’ that provides movement interpreting the wearer’s intention from the biosignals in advance of the actual movement. Not only a ‘voluntary control system’ “HAL” has, but also a ‘robotic autonomous control system’ that provides human-like movement based on a robotic system which integrally work together with the ‘autonomous control system’. “HAL” is the world’s first cyborg-type robot controlled by this unique Hybrid System.
* “HAL” is expected to be applied in various fields such as rehabilitation support and physical training support in medical field, ADL support for disabled people, heavy labour support at factories, and rescue support at disaster sites, as well as in the entertainment field.

Here’s what the Telegraph had to say:

Japanese ‘robot suit’ to help disabled

The suit, called HAL – or Hybrid Assistive Limb – is the work of Cyberdyne Corporation in Japan, and has been created to “upgrade the existing physical capabilities of the human body”.

* * *

People with physical disabilities, such as stroke-induced paralysis or spinal cord injuries, can hire the suit at a cost of Y220,000 (£1,370) per month, and Cyberdyne Corporation believes the technology can have a variety of applications, including in physical training and rehabilitation, adding extra “muscle” to heavy labour jobs, and even in rescue and recovery operations.

HAL can help the wearer to carry out a variety of every day tasks, including standing up from a chair, walking, climbing up and down stairs, and lifting heavy objects. The suit can operate for almost five hours before it needs recharging, and Cyberdyne Corporation says that it does not feel heavy to wear, because the robotic exoskeleton supports its own weight.

There’s even video (in Japanese, but you get the idea):

Now, I’ve written about these sorts of things before, but this one does seem to be an improvement over the other versions. And it is good that there is some actual competition, from a source which isn’t tied to the US military-industrial complex. What strikes me as particularly promising is the biosensors being used, picking up very subtle nerve impulses. Once you solve that problem, there is no longer either a learning-curve the user has to go through, nor a lag-time which they have to compensate for, making the use of this technology completely intuitive and natural.

Interesting. Very interesting.

Jim Downey

(Via MeFi.)

Wait, seriously???
August 3, 2009, 11:04 am
Filed under: Civil Rights, George Orwell, Government, Privacy, Society, Wired

OK, I’m having a hard time believing this, good skeptic that I am:

Government wants more CCTV cameras in homes
Latest Home Office initiative wants to watch 20,000 problem families 24/7

The UK Government’s Children’s Secretary Ed Balls has announced a controversial new CCTV monitoring scheme, in which thousands of problem families are to be monitored 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Balls claims that the £400 million “sin bin” scheme will put up to 20,000 problem families under 24-hour surveillance in their own homes, to ensure children go to bed and school on time and eat proper meals.

“Private security guards will also be sent round to carry out home checks, while parents will be given help to combat drug and alcohol addiction,” reads a report in the Sunday Express.

The other sources I find also link to the Express article, which can be seen here. Here’s a bit from Wired:

Britain To Put CCTV Cameras Inside Private Homes

As an ex-Brit, I’m well aware of the authorities’ love of surveillance and snooping, but even I, a pessimistic cynic, am amazed by the governments latest plan: to install Orwell’s telescreens in 20,000 homes.

The rest just repeats what is in the Express article. From that article:

Pupils and their families will have to sign behaviour contracts known as Home School Agreements before the start of every year, which will set out parents’ duties to ensure children behave and do their homework.

The updated Youth Crime Action Plan also called for a crackdown on violent girl gangs as well as drug and alcohol abuse among young women.

But a decision to give ministers new powers to intervene with failing local authority Youth Offending Teams was criticised by council leaders.

Les Lawrence, of the Local Government Association, said they did “crucial” work and such intervention was “completely unnecessary”.

OK, can anyone else, maybe someone in the UK, shed any light on this? Because I just have a hard time believing that the UK public would put up with any scheme which would put CCTV cameras into the homes of people for 24-hour monitoring. I don’t care how used the Brits are to having their public life tracked by these cameras – this just strikes me as extremely unlikely. So, is this just the Express making shit up, or what?

Because if not . . .

Edited to add, 12:50 PM:
Discussion on MetaFilter seems to conclude that the whole story is just BS from the Express, which has an agenda to push. That fits with my first impression of the story. Anyone else?

Jim Downey

(Cross posted to UTI.)

With this ring, I thee . . .
August 3, 2009, 9:27 am
Filed under: Guns, Humor, Science, YouTube

. . . knock down:

Reminds me of this “toy” I had as a kid. Coolest toy in the world. Of course, it made a lot of people deaf, but it was just amazing to have that ball of compressed air blow your hair up, or your hat off, or knock your glasses aside from across the room . . .

Yeah, OK, I was a loon, even as a kid.

But I had a *Sonic Blaster!* and was the envy of every other kid in the neighborhood.

Jim Downey

I’m a “maker”.
August 1, 2009, 12:43 pm
Filed under: Art, Society, Writing stuff

Wow – I *really* wish I had written this:

There are two types of schedule, which I’ll call the manager’s schedule and the maker’s schedule. The manager’s schedule is for bosses. It’s embodied in the traditional appointment book, with each day cut into one hour intervals. You can block off several hours for a single task if you need to, but by default you change what you’re doing every hour.

When you use time that way, it’s merely a practical problem to meet with someone. Find an open slot in your schedule, book them, and you’re done.

Most powerful people are on the manager’s schedule. It’s the schedule of command. But there’s another way of using time that’s common among people who make things, like programmers and writers. They generally prefer to use time in units of half a day at least. You can’t write or program well in units of an hour. That’s barely enough time to get started.

When you’re operating on the maker’s schedule, meetings are a disaster. A single meeting can blow a whole afternoon, by breaking it into two pieces each too small to do anything hard in. Plus you have to remember to go to the meeting. That’s no problem for someone on the manager’s schedule. There’s always something coming on the next hour; the only question is what. But when someone on the maker’s schedule has a meeting, they have to think about it.

For someone on the maker’s schedule, having a meeting is like throwing an exception. It doesn’t merely cause you to switch from one task to another; it changes the mode in which you work.

There’s a lot more, but I have already excerpted more than I usually consider “fair use.” So go read the whole thing. Seriously, do so and you will understand people like me a whole lot better.

Because I am a “maker”. Whether it is the time I am writing – working on a book, or trying to come up with what I consider a worthwhile blog post, or creating content for this or that ‘project’ – or whether it is the time I am doing conservation work, I need at least a block of a half day in order to really accomplish anything. It takes a while to get sorted, situated, and settled enough so that my mind (and my hands, actually) has the necessary calm to be creative in the appropriate way.

Most people just do not understand this. They are used to living by “manager” time, even if they are not actual managers themselves. That’s because managers usually set the rules by which other people work. And naturally they set rules that they understand and are comfortable using themselves. So even if someone is not a manager themself, they have acclimated to living on manager time.

No wonder I hate meetings and interruptions so much. I cringe when someone calls and wants to “drop by” and talk with me about this or that. Yeah, it is necessary – even in my business, I need to function as a manager sometimes – but good lord, does it disrupt me, and ruin an otherwise productive block of time.

Huh. I wish I had written that. Because in writing something, I usually have to really think it through sufficiently to bring my thoughts to crystal clarity. And this would have helped me understand some vague notions I have had much more completely.

Jim Downey

(Via Freakonomics, where the discussion is also pretty damned good.)


Feeling better, though still not entirely over the gut-bug. But I thought I would share some numbers with you.

In the six or so weeks since the last update, another 1,500 people have downloaded Communion of Dreams, which puts the total number of downloads at 17,000. This makes me happy. And we have a small publisher who is interested in the book. Maybe.

In other number news, BBTI continues to get a lot of hits. July had over 100,000, and that puts the total so far at 1,126,943. This also makes me happy. Feedback generally on the whole project continues to be positive, though we’re always getting comments like this:

ANALYZING UR STATS for 9mm, KEL-TEC (which I own).  Dont know when this study was done. looks like maybe mid ‘2008???  which is current enough to be relevant.  However…
WRONG AMMO for analysis w/KEL-TEC.  ANYTHING with a long barrel should ALWAYS use +P or +P+ to take advantage of – via specific brands at that.  FEDERAL & SPEER ARENT right choice because they’re specifically designed for short-barrel. “Fps gain” would expectantly be marginal over short barrel.  CORBON might be close to reality – but this is only marginal.  Would LOVE to see something like BUFFALO BORE or DOUBLE TAP +P/+P+  124gr & 147gr put thru these.  This is what I shoot all the time with it, and can only base “visual” on what I think…  would bet its substantial “fps gains” over pistol barrel, then.
Any chance of u updating ur chart to include some +P super-stuff specifically? Would even volunteer to send u a box or 2 of the BUffalo Bore if I could get a “yes” commitment from u!!

*sigh* Proof that, no matter what you do, somebody, somewhere, will bitch about it. It’s just the way people are.

But you can’t let that drive you nuts.

Too much. 😉

Jim Downey

(Cross posted to the BBTI Blog.)