Communion Of Dreams

Going full-auto.
April 27, 2011, 11:17 am
Filed under: Art, Guns, Humor, Rube Goldberg

About a month ago, I wrote about the delightful crazy man who made a machete-shooting slingshot. Well, he’s now got a Gatling-gun style slingshot which is brilliant:

Full article here.

Jim Downey

True craftsmanship.
April 25, 2011, 11:12 am
Filed under: Art

Just lovely:

Jim Downey

Curious coincidence.
April 24, 2011, 4:34 pm
Filed under: Alzheimer's, Publishing, Writing stuff

Got a call from an old friend this morning. We talk pretty often. After chatting for a bit, he asked me if I could send him something I had written back when my wife and I were taking care of her mom. Since all of that material has been transferred over to the Care-Giving book, and I have been working with it extensively for the last year, I figured I’d know exactly what piece he was talking about and would be able to send him the relevant excerpt immediately.

“Sure,” I said. “What was it about?”

“Oh, about you losing your temper, yelling at Martha Sr. I know someone who is a care-giver, and this just happened to her. I thought that piece of yours would help give her some perspective.”

Hmm. It rang a bell, but I couldn’t identify it immediately. Still, I figured I’d figure it out after I got off the phone, and said “Yeah, sure, I’ll track it down and pass it along.”

We finished our chat, and I started poking through the manuscript, which is basically finished, just getting some formatting tweaks worked out.

And poked. And poked some more.

Nothing. Yet, my recollection of the blog post was becoming stronger. I knew I had written the piece he was talking about. But I couldn’t recall exactly which one it was in the book.

I decided to try a search through my blog posts. I now have almost 1100 posts, over 4 years, but I had an idea about when it had to have run, and after a few minutes tracked it down.

It was this one: I am not a saint.

I went back to the book. Searched for that post.

It wasn’t there.

That’s very odd. I re-read the blog post. Yeah, it is embarrassing, but no more so than a lot of the stuff in the book. And more importantly, it is *exactly* the kind of thing we want to share with others – because it is a very normal and human reaction. Now that it has been brought to my attention, we’ll get it edited and integrated into the book.

But what a curious coincidence – to have a friend think of the one post from almost 4 years ago that I had managed to skip over in the process of collecting and editing Her Final Year.

Curious, indeed.

Jim Downey

With a thanks to my friend Jerry for helping make the book more complete.

Delightful SF madness.
April 23, 2011, 10:50 am
Filed under: Art, Humor, Rube Goldberg

Being something of an obsessive-compulsive lunatic myself, I always admire this trait in others. Here is a delightful example of what I mean:

Jim Downey

Via MeFi.

Why do it, then?
April 20, 2011, 12:30 pm
Filed under: Alzheimer's, Government, Health, Machado-Joseph, NPR, Science

The National Institute on Aging has come up with new research guidelines and two new clinical diagnosis relating to Alzheimer’s. From the NIA news release:

For the first time in 27 years, clinical diagnostic criteria for Alzheimer’s disease dementia have been revised, and research guidelines for earlier stages of the disease have been characterized to reflect a deeper understanding of the disorder. The National Institute on Aging/Alzheimer’s Association Diagnostic Guidelines for Alzheimer’s Disease outline some new approaches for clinicians and provide scientists with more advanced guidelines for moving forward with research on diagnosis and treatments. They mark a major change in how experts think about and study Alzheimer’s disease. Development of the new guidelines was led by the National Institutes of Health and the Alzheimer’s Association.

From NPR coverage of the news:

The new definitions, which were just published online by the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia, acknowledge this dimly understood early phase of Alzheimer’s. Now there are two new pre-dementia phases: mild cognitive impairment and “preclinical Alzheimer’s.”

In mild cognitive impairment, a person’s changes in thinking are noticeable to himself, friends, or family. They would show up on tests of memory and recall, but don’t interfere with everyday activities. Alzheimer’s is just one possible cause. Because there are no treatments to prevent or stop Alzheimer’s, many people may not consider this diagnosis a blessing.

The second new phase, preclinical Alzheimer’s, is much squishier. There’s no list of symptoms that a doctor can whip out to say you’ve got it. Rather, the goal in creating this category is to see if scientists can define when the disease starts, and track it through biomarker tests, brain imaging, or other yet-to-be-invented tests. If that happens, it might someday lead to ways to prevent Alzheimer’s. But for now this category is useful only to researchers.

As I noted four years ago, I have faced the question of whether to be tested for a disease I may have, but for which there is very little in terms of treatment options (and no cure). From that blog post:

It is a very difficult decision to be tested for a genetic disease which you may have, and for which there is no known treatment (let alone a cure). If you test positive, you know exactly the sort of future you face. And, if you test positive, it can have a significant impact on your employment and insurance possibilities, even decades before you might experience any onset of symptoms.

There is a similar disease which runs in my family called Machado-Joseph. In terms of statistics, there is about a 68% chance that I carry the gene for it, though I do not have the other familial characteristics which seem to track with the disease. So I have elected not to be tested. Besides, at nearly 50 years of age, if I did have the onset of the disease, it would be likely that it would progress so slowly that I would die of something else (the younger the age of onset, the more rapidly the disease progresses).

That said, I have told my sister (who has the disease) that if her doctor wants to do the genetic test on me in order to have that additional bit of information, I would do so.

And I suppose that is where I come down on the issue of whether or not to do any of the new testing for Alzheimer’s: if it will help science better understand this disease, how it develops, and to chart possible treatments, I would participate. It may not be something I could benefit from myself, but I have to look at the bigger picture. I think we all do.

Jim Downey

A sigh of relief.
April 20, 2011, 10:00 am
Filed under: Government, Violence

I must admit, to a certain extent I hold my breath every year when April 19 comes around, because of the history associated with it.

Good to listen to the news this morning and only have it filled with the usual human tragedies and violence.

Well, you know what I mean.

Jim Downey

Mmmm . . . leather.
April 17, 2011, 3:11 pm
Filed under: Art, Book Conservation, Health

It’s been a while since I posted any photos of my book conservation work. So I thought I’d take some snaps of this 1668 legal text I was rebinding in full Moroccan goatskin.

Here’s the first image, of the front of the skin. It’s been mounted to the boards and a spine liner, then shaped to fit over the raised bands on which the text block is sewn:

The second image is on the inside, showing the position of the boards and spine liner, with the overhang of leather which will be turned-in to finish the edge:

The third image shows a detail of that turned-in leather strip. It’s hard to tell, but the very edge of the leather had been pared down so that it would create a bevel to finish nicely:

The next image is another detail, showing one way to make a finished corner. I like this method, because it finishes off clean yet still gives additional protection. The little tab wraps around the corner of the board, then the two flaps come around the edge:

Then there’s an image of the cover with heavy cords wrapped around the re-dampened leather. This helps to shape the leather over the raised bands on the spine, since as the leather dries, it pulls tight and holds that shape:

The next image shows what the spine looks like once it has dried and the cords are removed:

Then a detail that shows what the spine looks like after simple blind tooling to accentuate the bands:

And lastly, a shot of the finished book, after gold-stamped labels have been mounted:

Not bad, eh? I’m pretty happy with the finished product. And I am glad to be done with this – it was part of a project I started last summer before becoming so ill with the pneumonia and all the related problems which have still plagued me since. Because of these health problems, I lost 50% of my income . . . and spent fully a third of the remainder on medical bills. Wrapping up this project, and getting the books back to the client, is something of a turning point for me.

Jim Downey

But can it cry “Danger! Danger, Will Robinson!”?
April 14, 2011, 9:51 am
Filed under: Predictions, Science Fiction, Society, tech, YouTube


From the FRIDA project page:

Today, the development is at a stage where several prototypes have left the research lab and are being tested in pilot applications, with more work required to reach a fully agile assembly scenario.

This is more of an economic development than it is the advent of our New Robotic Overlords. Having such a robot on a human scale which is fairly modular means that it can be plugged into existing factories and systems with minimal additional investment. Depending on the cost of these things once they’re ready for sale, they could wind up supplanting human labor – likely first in environments where it is too dangerous/costly for humans to work, then increasingly in general repetitive labor.

The Utopian science fiction writers foresaw a society where robotic workers freed humans for a life of ease – allow people to do creative work at their leisure. Cynical bastard that I am, I always figured that such a life of ease would mostly be reserved for the people who *owned* the robotic workers, with everyone else struggling to get by in a society which no longer really needed human labor. Current economic trends have tended to bear this out.

But I suppose we’ll see what the future actually holds.

Jim Downey

1066, and all that.*
April 12, 2011, 9:41 am
Filed under: Google, Humor, Space, Writing stuff

150 years ago the US Civil War started. 50 years ago a man first went into space.

In a completely trivial and unimportant, unrelated note, I started posting on this blog 1065 posts ago. Yeah, this makes post #1,066.

So why mention it? Oh, because I’m amused by the number. And because it is something of a poke at myself – it’s important to have perspective. As the old line goes, “after Shakespeare, why write anything?”

And yet, I can’t seem to help myself.

Jim Downey

*Gratuitously stolen from the book of the same name, of course.

Beyond graceful.
April 11, 2011, 5:09 pm
Filed under: NPR, Science, tech, YouTube

I’ve heard of engineering projects described as “graceful.” My uncle Ted was one of the people primarily responsible for building such a project – the Clark Bridge.

But this . . . this goes beyond graceful, and straight to beautiful, like something out of a dream:

Via a delightful blog post by Robert Krulwich, science reporter for NPR. He’s got more videos and complete explanation there.

Jim Downey