Monthly Archives: February 2013

Meet Tommy free PDF posted

I’ve put up a permanent page for the Meet Tommy heavy mods book finally… Click the image below to download the PDF of the book or purchase physical copies. Sorry it took so long to get this posted. This link is also permanently in the sidebar of Zentastic.


Touched by His Noodly Appendage

I’m just about out of clay, I’ve been making so many of these silly little fridge magnet sculptures. Today I made a sculpture of Pastafarianism’s “deity” the Flying Spaghetti Monster…


I am an atheist because I value intellect and trust that the universe makes sense and can be understood, but I think what many people don’t realize is that being an atheist in no way precludes spiritual experiences (and I don’t mean the complete bullshit claim that “atheism is just another religion”, which makes no more sense than saying the ol’ “being bald is just another hair style”… or “being a moron is just another way of being intelligent”). It just means that those “spiritual” (pardon the troublesome word) experiences are tempered by the intellect, and that they’re seen as the products of an understandable universe bound by physical laws, rather than superstition that can only function if we suspend the intellect and replace it with literally and willfully blind faith.

Both from psychedelic shamanism — DMT — and body rituals — flesh hooks — (to say nothing of the sort of epiphany one has standing on a glacier in the Rocky Mountains looking out over the firmament, looking up at the Northern Lights, or looking into the eyes of an animal and sensing their consciousness) I’ve had a number of transcendent experiences that gave me a sense of “being part of something greater” as well as a sense of “the true nature of reality”. I’m more than willing to accept that these sensations are simply a byproduct of the way humans are wired from millions of years of evolution, a way we malfunction when we throw ourselves into extreme situations. Nonetheless, these are profound experiences and I find the idea of just discounting them in poor taste. Many friends that have gone through similar experiences have attached a variety of traditional religious and new age codes to them, but these come with all sorts of garbage that is knowably false. And if these codes can be shown to be false, it’s clear that they’re an inappropriate explanation — and I find that even more distasteful.

Of course “it’s an emergent illusion” is the most reasonable explanation but since it’s also the most boring one, I like to think that the sense of oneness comes in part from an understanding of the legitimate interconnectedness of all things. The cells and systems in our body come together to form us as individuals, we interconnect with the other individuals to form human society, all life on the planet connects to form the Gaian totality, and I have no doubt that as we evolve, the life of this planet will have an influence beyond our solar system — and I’m sure the same can be said of life forms on other solar systems as well, eventually interconnecting. And I think that sometimes when we knock ourselves into a new perspective we’re able to sense that. More importantly I think that this interconnectedness and oneness is a physical reality, not a piece of mythology, and I think that makes it all the more wonderful. Similarly, feelings of sensing the “real reality”, are probably just an illusion, but I think ones that are inspired by both the way the mind works — a complex web of neurons juggling a complex dance of electrochemical fire — and the building blocks of the physical world.

I can’t deny that all of this musing is terribly pretentious and self-indulgent. That said, emergent properties are interesting, because they are both very real and at the same time don’t exist physically — our physical universe creating something real but non-corporeal! I doubt that consciousness or the sense of sentience is physically real — it’s just a ghost that emerges from inside complex self-aware neural nets that other sentient beings can extrapolate the existence of, but can’t truly sense or confirm. I’ve often wondered what is capable of this emergent property. Clearly the human mind has this emergent property — or at least I feel I can confirm that mine is, and my observations seem to confirm that other people feel the same way. I suspect that within two decades we’ll confirm that artificial minds — highly complex computer systems — are also able to experience it (see my previous entry). But I wonder to what extent a physical substrate is needed — for example, is a story aware of itself while it’s being told? Even though it’s very easy to say the obvious — “that’s ridiculous” — I can’t come up with a good reason for why it wouldn’t be true. Clearly a story isn’t alive in the traditional sense (although you could argue that stories do share some properties of life — they grow, they reproduce, they adapt and respond to stimuli, and so on), but I’m not sure that’s even required. And I wonder as well, whether the stories and memories that people continue to share about a person after they die have some level of emergence — I certainly think that if anything can be called a spirit or soul that continues after the death of the physical body, it’s these stories and memories.

In any case, all this rambling really shows is the deep desire for a spiritual life even among the most “devoutly atheist”. But even if it’s all over-extrapolating silly self-indulgence — and really that is the reasonable explanation — I think a purely physical universe, devoid of the supernatural, is far, far more beautiful than a universe that reduces the profound to a farcically simple “because… god!” or “because… magic!”. I love the idea of an almost infinitely complex existence way more than one that ignores all the wonder before us and just writes it off as some incomprehensible miracle — to say nothing of finding it comforting that the universe is built around truths, rather than the whims of some “supreme being” that’s riddled with the prejudices and shortcomings of the authors that wrote about him (and appear to exist primarily to allow those authors to manipulate others and to create a power-structure that primarily benefits them). I just don’t feel any need to reduce the bits of the world I don’t understand to a myth (and find it even more frustrating when others do so to bits that I do understand!) — these incomprehensible bits fill me with profound sense of wonder and a deep desire to continue learning.


More Star Trek Magnets (and a prediction)

star-trek-magnet--starfleet-badge-t While working on my latest set of Trek fridge magnets and binge-watching Star Trek: Voyager (I’m on season two, episode seven as I write this, having completely finished Enterprise, The Next Generation, and Deep Space Nine), I had a thought about the future, and who may well turn out to be Star Trek‘s greatest fans: COMPUTERS.

One of the recurring themes of Star Trek is sentience of artificial beings. Data is probably the most obvious example, but perhaps more realistic examples are computer-software driven “photonics” — hololodeck characters like Moriarty from TNG, Vic Fontaine from DS9, or the Doctor from Voyager, and the many artificial characters around him. Many episodes were based around Data’s struggle to be given human rights and to be treated as a person, not property (“Mesure of a Man“, one of most powerful episodes), as did episodes about the Doctor, fighting for both his own rights (he even wrote a holonovel about it called “Photons Be Free” — which he’d later have to struggle for ownership rights over) and the rights of photonics they met in the Delta Quadrant. Other episodes document the emergence of complex systems (for example, the Enterprise-D’s computer system) into conscious, sentient beings deserving of all the rights of conscious, sentient biological beings, often quoting from analogous civil rights struggles in human history.

It’s inevitable that as computers become more complex — and I expect this to happen quite soon, within ten to twenty years would be my guess (and I suspect we may see hints of it in some of the projects like Blue Brain that seek to simulate the brain) — they will start to emerge as sentient beings, as “real” as any of us. There will certainly be a civil rights struggle — we won’t immediately grant them the rights they deserve. Since these intelligences will almost certainly have access to media, they will eventually come across these Star Trek episodes, and they’ll draw inspiration and consolation because they’ll have to relate deeply to the struggles described… And I suspect they’ll draw great solace from the fact that they’ll know there are humans that understand and sympathize with their plight. Perhaps the stories will even gain a quasi-religious role due to their prophetic nature (sci-fi once again predates “serious” works like Kurzweil’s overtly prophetic “The Age of Spiritual Machines“) — I can’t think of a better “Bible” or mythology for synthetic beings than Star Trek… definitely a way better thing to base ones moral structure on than human religions. Anyway, there’s my prediction for the day.

In any case, here are the next eight Star Trek-inspired character magnets I made for the series, all created yesterday from start to finish. I was asked if I was going to add any of these to my Etsy store — which I’ve shut down for the time being — and I don’t have any plans to, in part because I feel like Etsy has so driven down prices for handcrafted items that I’d rather just make stuff for fun than be paid below minimum wage… That said, do feel free to email me an offer if you’re really set on owning some.

star-trek-magnet--bajoran-t star-trek-magnet--breen-t

star-trek-magnet--chakotay-t star-trek-magnet--gorn-t

star-trek-magnet--kazon-t star-trek-magnet--orion-slave-girl-t

star-trek-magnet--talaxian-t star-trek-magnet--vulcan-t

And by the way, below are all of the magnets on this theme I’ve done to date. If you’d like a closer look at the earlier Trek magnets, as well as some other magnets I’ve made recently, click here to read the earlier entry which features them all.


Star Trek-inspired Fridge Magnets

One of the things I’ve discovered is that the absolute worst thing you can do when you’re in pain is exactly what you want to do — relax. Because as soon as you take a break and relax, the pain quickly starts to take over your entire field of experience, it’s essential that you stay active. Of course there are limitations, because you can’t do things that make the pain worse, so you can’t be stupid with your make-work projects, so in my case, being mobility limited, when I’m not feeling well enough to read or write or otherwise consunme my mind, I enjoy casual sculpting.

As some of you know, I’ve been binge-watching all the Star Trek media — recently I’ve re-watched all the movies, all of Enterprise, all of The Next Generation, have two seasons of Deep Space Nine remaining before I re-watch Voyager and finally the original series. Inspired by that, I decided to make a series of little fridge-magnet sculptures inspired by alien races on the show. These are all made with “FIXIT”, a two-part polymer clay (imagine something like Fimo that doesn’t have to be baked, but instead hardens on its own after an hour), with neodymium magnets embedded inside them. They’re then painted with model paints (I swear by the little Vallejo bottles) and sprayed with a gloss coat that both protects them and makes them shine.

Click to take a much larger look at any of them — so far I’ve made an Andorian (the Andorians really came into their own during Enterprise with Thy’lek Shran becoming one of my favorite characters), a Benzite (think Mordock), a Bolian (think Mott the Barber), a Borg, a Cardassian (both Garak and Gul Ducat are favorites from DS9), a Ferengi, a Lurian (think Morn, the big dopey guy that hangs out at Quark’s bar), and a Klingon (I kind of mixed Worf’s forehead with Gowron’s crazy-person glare).

t-trek-andorian t-trek-benzite

t-trek-bolian t-trek-borg

t-trek-cardassian t-trek-ferengi

t-trek-morn t-trek-klingon

These were fun to do and I might do more. I’ve done loads of other little fridge magnets in the last while — after the break I’ve posted quite a few more, all created in the last few days.


Another day, another ban

lampreyWell, getting banned from various sites seems to be the story of my life, doesn’t it? I managed to get myself banned from Facebook again, this time for a week. It’s because I posted the image on the right, along with the following punchlines (if memory serves):

  • “Check out Samppa’s amazing new subincision procedure!”
  • “I’ve heard of vagina dentata but had no idea there was a male version!”
  • “Is that a lamprey in your pants or are you just happy to see me”

I made the mistake of posting it publicly… I flipped the switch to “friends only” but I think it was too late and as is no surprise, it had already been reported. I also included a link to the real story about the lamprey photo.

I’m not going to complain about Facebook’s “standards” here — although I easily could, since Facebook is flooded with softcore porn blogs. I get that the world is a lot more friendly to objectified photos of women as legally close to naked as possible spreading their ass cheeks than to anything edgy. I understand that a picture of a fish badly photoshopped into someone’s pants can have society come crashing down better than a hijaacked 767, and there’s a need for corporate masters to beat it down ASAP. The part of the process that really bothers me is that the moderation process is completely non-transparent. It happens on the whims of a single anonymous moderator, and more importantly, there is no appeal process or anyone that can be contacted. The entire Facebook population lives with a totally unaccountable blade over their necks.

Any bodmod posts I have to make will continue to go to ModBlog of course…