Monthly Archives: October 2010

Doll House Progress

There’s still a lot to do on this project, with the next step probably being using a plaster-type compound to hide all of the screws and brackets, and I’ll also stamp it all with a mold to make parts of it look like wooden boards, parts of it like bricks, and parts of it like stone. Today Nefarious and I took a walk through Rona (a store much like Home Depot) and picked up vinyl tiles, acrylic sheets, hinges, and lots of other goodies. Anyway, these are really just teaser pictures of where I’m at today. When it’s all done I’ll post a proper instructable.

And what a crazy fight last night, wow. Admittedly I fell asleep but I was recording it and watched it today, completely avoiding any website that might leak the outcome to me. And soon I will be asleep again, perhaps dreaming of space.

Finally it’s firm!!!

Yeah, “that’s what she said.”

I’m talking about a diagnosis! Woo woo! The biggest step forward in my depressing medical life in a long time happened today. I don’t know if it’s the sort of thing one says “congratulations” in response to, but normally I’m all tears at the doctor’s, and today it was all smiles for a change. Even “failing” the strength test, showing that my shoulders are more affected than I’d assumed, didn’t bring me down (caveat: “at the time”). But let me tell the story from the beginning.

Ages ago I had a muscle biopsy (you may remember the awesomely gory photos) and the initial results were inconclusive with the folks who analyzed it writing the ambiguous comment “unusual muscle structures” or something like that. Because the genetic tests we’ve been doing for different forms of muscular dystrophy were negative even though various tests and various scans were showing that type of symptoms, and because the level of pain is somewhat atypical, my newer and more experienced doctors had the tissue sent over so they could take a closer look using their electron microscope. Here’s what they saw (this isn’t me though, just a picture I found on the net):

If I understand the right, the thing in the middle filled with the grid of circles is a muscle fiber. The thing is, it’s not supposed to be filled with that grid — the picture down below shows normal muscle on the left and muscle like mine on the right. They’re called tubular aggregates (BTW, it’s amazing to me how artificial they look), and I finally have a firm diagnosis, which is tubular aggregate myopathy. The good news is that even though it’s excruciatingly painful and debilitating, and has neither cure nor effective treatment, it affects only skeletal muscle and is thus rarely directly fatal. The horrible news is that it has a genetic cause, and that cause can be recessive or dominant and inherited, or caused by a random mutation… the reason that’s horrible is that it means there is a solid chance I’ve passed this curse on, and I feel just awful about that possibility, and have told my doctors that my top priority is in determining whether that is the case. Anyway, I don’t have too much to say because I only found out about this today and I’ve still got a lot to learn (and the internet is filled with conflicting and mostly useless info on the subject), so I apologize if I’ve made any mistakes in my explanation.

I have kind of mixed feelings about the diagnosis. Part of me was hoping to be told, once again, “sorry, we have nothing useful for you”, because that left the door open a sliver for the possibility that I was lying to myself and was just addicted to painkillers and didn’t know that I was faking everything. As much as that would have been horribly embarassing, it would have been easy to treat. That door is closed now, leaving me with something that can not be treated. It’s of minimal satisfaction to be “vindicated” and have hard proof that I’ve been telling the truth to everyone. That said, I really have to thank everyone who has stuck with me up to this point, most of all Caitlin and Nefarious and Dave and Saira, but also other friends, both real life and even those who I know only through kind words here on zentastic.

And other than that, we just got Netflix on the PS3 (and on Caitlin’s iPad for bedtime viewing), and wow, it’s awesome so far. Their selection of documentaries is incredible and there’s so much stuff I’m looking forward to that I’m not too broken up if I end up bedridden for a while! Overall, the day has made me feel pretty good emotionally, although I still feel horrible physically. Tonight Nefarious and I are going to enjoy some movies and a pizza, and tomorrow we’re rounding up all the scrap wood that I have lying around and building a big doll house (with the bottom story being a barn). I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I have the strength to survive the next two days.

A big entry with lots of pictures (minimal soap)

The weekend was brutal, suicidally difficult waking up at three in the morning in agony. In those moments I’m very happy for the wonderful life I’ve had, but I really feel like I’ve had enough of it and I would be thankful for the pain to end with the last beat of my heart and my last breath. If that ever does happen, please don’t think of it as anything other than succumbing to the illness. Having been down that self-inflicted road in my youth, it’s a road that would bring me shame to travel. Anyway, after predictably unsatisfactory doctor visits and discussions at the start of the week, things got better though and the glass is feeling half full again. Tomorrow begins at the hospital, I think because my latest blood-work has caused some alarm that I’m still waiting to have explained to me. At least my appointment is first thing in the morning, which I’m keeping my fingers crossed means I’m first in line and will also be first out the door. Oh and because I haven’t been feeling too hot I haven’t been answering my phone (let alone emails or facebooks), so if it feels like I’m ignoring you, please accept my apologies and I promise it’s nothing personal!

But I’m rambling now, and not about anything that I or you should waste your time on.

Anyway, I do have lots of fun stuff too, but I’m going to write it quick and sloppy so I hope it makes sense. Let me begin with a duct tape and toilet paper roll elephant that Nefarious and I made. She did most of it and then I touched it up a little as she worked on the next one, a giraffe. So I’m going to blog all this while watching a couple episodes of Jersey Shore and muttering “what a piece of shit”, usually at Mike (“the Situation”), over and over. Click through to continue with the whole mess.


Little Soaps, Store Coming Soon

I know I said I wasn’t going to post any more soap stuff, but I made some smaller soaps to go along with my big half pound behemoths. I think they make a pretty nice set. You can click this picture for another view. I was going to set up an Etsy store, but I don’t feel like paying their fees so I’m just going to soon set something up on this domain instead, most likely a Paypal cart or something. Anyway, as always things take longer than expected, especially because my shoulders are beginning to hurt as much as my legs. I really did them in grating carrots. A delicious salad resulted, but the pain and lack of healing wasn’t worth it. I’m so sick of it. But I do like making soap, and that takes very little muscular effort. Oh, and you’ll be able to pick your colours, scents, and additives of course (ie. hemp powder, caffeine, and so on) as well as the various shapes.

Edit/Update: Nefarious just arranged all the soaps we’ve made (not including the ones that have already been given away), as well as some of the masters. You can click to zoom in. By the way, the one that looks like a chocolate chip cookie in the top right is just that — a translucent gold soap mold in the shape of a cookie, with “chocolate chip” soap bits suspended in it.

Another grotesque soap mold

Since I’ve been asked by a few people about what the soaps and candles would cost, my manufacturing cost on the soaps is between $1.25 and $2.00 (they’re pretty big bars at about 1/2 pound) and my cost on the candles is around $6.50 — that’s in beeswax for a candle that weighs a bit less than a pound. Doing them in paraffin wax or soy wax is much less costly and drops my cost to $2.50 or less. Add to that shipping ($10 and up depending on where it’s going — the Canada Post website has a rate calculator that will tell you exactly — my postal code is M6R2B2 if you choose to use their calculator). I can scent them in a ton of different ways, and it’s easy to put in additives like various exfoliants, or extra ingredients like caffeine. I’m just doing this for fun, so as long as it’s not a ton of people asking, I’m happy to send them out for cost plus whatever you want to tip me.

To begin, I made a new soap mold in the same series using the same method of making a master in clay and then pouring a silicone mold. This time instead of one eyeball, you get a bunch. The gold one is pineapple scented and the darker one is bubble gum flavor (I know, it should have been pink) with some powdered walnut hull mixed in. You can click on all these pictures to zoom in by the way.

I’ve been experimenting a little with putting a “ZENTASTIC SOAPWORKS” stamp onto the back, by suspending the stamp in the liquid soap, but my method is far from ideal so the results still leave a little to be desired. That said, I do grok how to fix it so the next batch I make will look much cleaner.

I’m also starting to do a little more experimenting with multiple colors. This white and blue-purple soap is a mix of camphor and eucalyptus, and was made by first pouring in some shea butter soap without any additives and sloshing it around in the “veins” and then letting it pool in the eyeball and harden before adding the main body of soap. Anyway, I’m likely done with posting soap projects for a while because I’ve committed to a big (and fascinating) programming contract, but if you would like some do feel free to contact me (via email to is best, with a subject line that makes me notice it among all the spam that still gets through gmail’s filters).