Friday, May 27, 2016

Math, music and Power Wheels

TL;DW Notes:

So if I go too long without posting, I talk so much that the video becomes too big for Blogger to accept. Which means I need to blog more often. Okay.

My hours are all backwards... it's now early afternoon and my day is just starting. I've been at PS1 pretty much every night... overnight... for the last week.

Last night was a Power Racing team meeting; we discussed frame design and Jeremy talked about the engineering and physics involved in car frames... and then assured us that, since we're doing tiny cars at relatively slow speeds, most of that isn't a concern. We use a set caster and camber, toe in/out isn't a concern, and a ladder frame will be rigid enough for our purposes. There was discussion of the function of a motor controller and whether we should use a factory-set one or try to code our own... we don't have time for the latter, I guess.

I barely hung on by my fingertips and asked what I feel were some blatantly stupid questions. I actually got an eye-roll from one of the other teammates at one point. Jeremy, however, insists there are only two stupid questions and I didn't ask either, so I'm trying to not get too down about it.

I set out last night to try and do a little writing for World's End Chronicles; instead, I ended up on Khan Academy continuing to brush up on my algebra. I'm up to factoring and simplifying radical expressions... not deep, but I made a lot of progress last night.

Jennie found this MASSIVE 8-in-1 Guitar for Dummies book somewhere and gave it to me to help. Right off the bat, I learned something useful... that, when sitting, I shouldn't be supporting the neck with my fretting hand... and that's kind of a revelation for me. I'm still just practicing G and trying to build those callouses on my fingertips, but it helps make the workload on my fretting hand easier. However, the guitars available for practice are starting to just feel small... that's a problem. I'm having trouble controlling the tiny guitars!

Jennie's balalaika, however, won't stay tuned... I've also been having fun fiddling with that, so that's a little bit of a bummer. Still nifty, though.

Time to clean up and head back! Be excellent to each other!
Jonny friggin' Panic

Thursday, May 26, 2016

I rode a bike!!!

So, another post without video, because the video is 102MB and Blogger sucks and won't allow more than 100MB.

It's been a hectic four days; my sleep schedule is completely backwards, so I've been here all night every night since Sunday.

I RODE A BIKE!!! For those who are new to Jonny friggin' Panic... I never learned how to ride. I can build, tune and repair bicycles with ease, but never learned to ride; every prior attempt was met with mayhem and injury. BUT my fellow PS1 members have sworn up and down that they'd love to help, and so they did on Tuesday night! The downside: coaster brakes are a pain. PS1 has a "shop bike" people can borrow as needed, and we used that but it has a coaster brake... the idea was for me to put my right foot on the right pedal and just scooter around using my left foot to push, to get a feel for the bike. Before long, though, I was wondering why the bike was so hard to move, and then I realized the coaster brake had been engaged by my movements. Then a car came down the alley and, without thinking, I put both feet on the pedals and took it a good twenty feet to get out of the way!

And then I did it again!

I was going to practice more last night, but this weather is ludicrous... the sun will peek out and then we get thunderstorms. BUT Jennie says she has a junk bike and a bunch of spare parts (and, apparently, a gift for finding junked bikes), so she's gonna bring that in and, if I can fix it, I can have it! In return, because I'm good with bikes, extremely bored and here regularly in the middle of the night, I told folks if they need bikes worked on, just bring them in and I'll see what I can do. Coz, apparently, I think I'm the friggin' Shoemaker Elf of Bicycles or something. But hey, it'd give me something to do!

I've decided to resurrect World's End Chronicles, my fiction-fragment blog... I tend to write character introductions and various scenarios, but have trouble tying them together, so I just write what I can think of and post it, then worry about linkage later. There is a tiny bit of new material... including a character introduction that draws from my time in the bottle... and an essay about the death of Robin Williams that you can read or skip as you see fit; I adored him and cried when he died, so I'm leaving it.

Last night was CAJOO, our music night, and it's starting to come together a bit. Some of us had the idea of prepping a playlist of songs that might come up, and that really helped. There was more singing (I may post a video or bit of audio later) and Andy was able to hear the song, break it down into recognizable basics for our various instruments and give everyone some direction. It was fun and quite productive, and I felt comfortable enough singing to really put some soul into it. Folks seemed to enjoy it, and Adriana and I covered Johnny and June Carter Cash's "Jackson" for laughs.

I've had some interesting conversations with folks that keep me acutely aware of just how pervasive sexism and misogyny is even in intellectual, technological and educational fields. A Buzzfeed article I read a couple years back sprang to mind recently and it reminds me that fearing the divisive "he-said she-said" rumor mill is absolutely secondary to getting eyes on predators... especially in intellectual circles. Big vocabularies, misdirection, and large social followings do not excuse predatory, devaluing behavior. You are only as good as the company you keep, so if your friends are willingly siding with your predators... they are not your friends. Be noisy, get them noticed!

If you have to make war... make war.

I think the true noobs among us in the Power Racing Series are going to build a "junk car" to get a feel for the process. The idea is to use anything we can scrape together for free... Jennie already has a couple of electric motors that need testing and possible repair, but she and I both are having trouble envisioning the physics and engineering design influences in play from just reading material. If you want to donate anything to help us get this done, please do so! What we build may not make it into the Series, but we're doing it just to screw it up and learn from it.

Anyways, I'm heading home for the day, and then back here for whatever else happens.

Be excellent to each other!
Jonny friggin' Panic

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Firsts! Yay!!!

TL;DR Notes:

My first video on my new laptop AND my first post from Pumping Station: One!!!

The laptop is actually turning out nicely, XUbuntu Linus isn't as scary as I'd thought, and finishing setup has been pretty easy with the very useful information that opening page provided! Not to mention FreeGeek did a lovely job refurbishing the machine. It's fairly nice, really... 15.6" display, 4GB RAM, 320GB HDD, dual core processor... I'm actually pretty pleased. It's also been an easy and interesting introduction to Linux; the community has obviously worked hard at making this accessible to new users like me!

Analog Game Night was tonight... I finally played Settlers of Catan! I didn't win, but I got to 9 points (you win at 10), and it wasn't a really cutthroat group, just a casual group, a little wheeling and dealing and some good fun. The game took over five hours, though, but part of that was a stop for food and other stuff. We also played Give Me The Brain!, a zombie card game, but people were winding down by then.

The guy running the group also showed me a book called "Cooking for Geeks" by Jeff Potter, which reads like Cooking for Dummies targeted to me! I'm actually giving it a read and it's quite good, assuming you know nothing and explaining stuff like why cooking works like it does, the tools, the processes, etc... I think, maybe, I can actually learn to cook! Edibly!!!

He's doing a little sort-of cooking class tomorrow on the induction stove top, so I might pick his brain and learn a bit about cooking a better grilled cheese.

Yet another thing I'd overthought that I'm learning, here at PS1, is not such a big deal and not so hard!

My sleep hours are sliding around the clock, again... it's after 1:30AM here... but much of what happens here happens in the afternoon and evening, so that's okay. I'm gonna putter around here, on my laptop, with this book on cooking, on a guitar Andy still has here, until maybe sunrise, walk home, sleep, clean up, and come right back!

I might even get that video tour done! Finally!

Also, there's a new gym a block away... I can't afford a membership ($70 a month), but they have a rock climbing wall and people here have been going now and then just to climb. If you're not a member, it's $18 per visit... I really really really want to do this, at least once in a while, so I'm gonna try to go for the training class after I get my check and try to budget a visit or two next month!!!

Anyways... hooray for firsts! Enjoy the weather, go out, do things, make plans, accomplish and be excellent to each other!

Jonny friggin' Panic

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Where are you?!?

I'm having a whole string of issues randomly keeping me from posting videos here over the last few days, from the internet at home being down (it's up now) to a video being on the wrong device and NOW the latest video I shot is 104MB and Blogger only allows videos up to 100MB.

So, you know, fuck Blogger. But I'm gonna keep going. Long post, I promise it's at least mildly funny and informative!

I haven't posted in three days, but not for lack of trying. It's been a hectic but interesting three days. Wednesday was CAJOO (band night, Cable Access Jammers Open Office hours), and I think we're finally getting a bit coordinated. Andy is an excellent teacher (he teaches kids, too, and so is patient and works with multiple people of varying skill levels well), and a roommate of Jennie's finally made it and added an extra layer to the experience; he plays bass (among other things) and, even when we weren't actively playing, he'd just kind of do something in the background and add another layer to our experience that, I think, kept people engaged and feeling music. I'm glad he made it.

We had plenty of people and a lot of instruments, mostly stringed, and I think I'm up to three chords and sort-of two more, but I'm starting to think it's time to learn proper chords (Andy's been tuning my guitar to open G because my hands are uncooperative) just to smooth out the teaching process... he has to keep showing other guitar and banjo players one fingering and then show me another. And I think I'm ready... my hands are getting the message that I'm not putting up with their nonsense, just a bit.

Thursday, we didn't have a Team N00b meeting set up, so I planned to just do some work with my laptop; I packed a bunch of things I'm going to want at PS1 into The Beast (the old Army backpack my dad gave me and I lived out of through the '90s).., extra phone charger, mouse, a cheap pair of powered speakers, hand exercisers, etc... and took them all to PS1. I even claimed a locker, so I now officially have a locker at PS1!

My goal was to do some basic setup work on the laptop that needs to be done... FreeGeek set it up so when you first open Firefox, it shows a page telling you a number of things you should do or consider doing with a new Ubuntu or Linux install, which is wildly useful to a newbie like me. There's a couple around who just joined PS1 and I end up talking to them a bit about the heady feeling and excitement of being a new member. I was gonna do that stuff, get my laptop into a usable state and do stuff.

But noooOOOooo...

Jennie showed up with another roommate (I think maybe she keeps a set of them on a shelf or something?) and asks if we want to try doing stained glass. Now, stained glass was never really on my radar... I had it worked up in my head as complicated and beyond my skill level... but I figured what the hell, the opportunity is right there, so I can at least try.

Yeah, no, stained glass (and soldering, which I apparently also overthought) was nowhere near as intimidating as I'd expected. Mind you, I kept it simple... I cut a rectangle of glass into four pieces and then reassembled them... but the cutting process, lining them with copper foil, even the soldering, was much easier than I expected. I feel silly. The woman of the new couple good-naturedly ribbed me about the smoothness of my soldering.

See?!? This is what I hacked yesterday!

Now, I'm not completely clueless... I know stained glass is harder than all that. But I can see how etching and cracking the glass, then using the grinder for fine corrections, can shape pieces for truly intricate works. That I was able to do this with such ease, though, is highly encouraging.

The fact is, I've done a lot of oddball things here that have turned out to be good physical therapy!

Anyways, while we made stained glass works, Jennie made vegan waffles! She has an AWESOME fully armed and operational Death Star wafflemaker! And yeah, turns out, vegan waffles... I can't tell the difference, delicious is delicious. I learned something about maple syrup though, coz I was the one to run to the store to buy some and took the time to look up online what makes maple syrup vegan or not. (They might add just a little animal fat during processing to reduce foaming, but vegetable oil also works.)

Erm... weirdly enough, Jennie likes making waffles for people, but she doesn't like eating waffles...? Go figure. She did impart a hilarious story of life events to those of us there, and that might end up being repeated for The Moth, so I'm not gonna ruin it for you. End Thursday!

This time (Friday night), I went back to PS1, immediately went shopping for cheap, healthy food at the Jewel-Osco across the street, had breakfast, and then dug into my laptop to get that stuff done. It's actually been a very educational experience; I'm guessing FreeGeek puts XUbuntu on their systems for ease of use so people new to Linux don't get discouraged. It has a very Windows-like graphical interface and that informational page is VERY useful and educational... OH! Here it is! Yeah!

That page also leads to this one, discussing why antivirus programs aren't a high priority in Linux... it's actually a very educational read, even if you're not using Linux, just for the insight. A great deal of internet development rests on Linux work, so it's good to know this stuff.

Now my laptop is about ready for actual use, and I've learned a bit about Ubuntu in the process... I might even get used to leaving a command window open to access programs and features faster than hunting for the buttons for them in the menu. So... yeah, not so scared of Linux, now!

This weekend is going to be GREAT! Get out, do stuff! I'm going to be at PS1 pretty much ALL WEEKEND, and my gym is only a 15-20 minute walk from there... I packed my gym clothes and took them there, so I can go to the gym from PS1. Tomorrow (today? Saturday.) is Analog Game Night, where games are played but NOT on computers and TV screens! It's a magical concept! I've never played Settlers of Catan before. We have it there, and people seem amused that I haven't played it, so I think it'll get played. YOU DON'T NEED TO BE A MEMBER TO COME JOIN US!!!

Sunday at 12:30 PM is Beer Church! I don't drink anymore, but PS1 has beer-brewing equipment! This group gathers, samples various beers, and then they decide what they want to brew, make an exodus to the supply store a block away, buy supplies and brew beer! Alchemy at its finest! Well, no, that's cooking, but close enough!

ALSO SUNDAY! Orientation at 4 PM! This is NOT like a job orientation, this is people who want you to be excited to do your hobbies there... they're casual, they like chatting about it, they'll give you a good, solid tour and answer questions. You do not need to have joined to attend... you can go, then decide, but if you think you're interested, you should go and see! You do need to attend an orientation sometime shortly after joining anyways, so this would knock that out just in case. Orientations are only once a month, so do consider coming!

Well... no video... damn thing was a half-hour long anyway. I'm gonna sleep, shower, go back to PS1, eat, go to the gym, go back and then hack stuff! I hope I see someone new there! (By the way, I can TAKE A GUEST WITH ME whenever I go to the gym, so go with me!)

Be excellent to each other!
Jonny friggin' Panic

Wednesday, May 18, 2016


TL;DW Notes:

So, as mentioned before, my roommates let the internet account drop for a few days. This time around, it was to pay for Mysty's vet bill. I like Mysty, their dog; she's taught me that living with a small, lively dog isn't automatically awful. She's adorable and fantastically well-behaved.

But what's fired me up is that they've done this for most of my time here, and it has cost me opportunities. They did it for several months after I moved in, then were good about it for a while, then started doing it again these past few months. My ad asked for stable internet; I asked for it during the initial meeting and showing; I was told it'd be fine and then it got thrown right out. They don't even ask me if I can do without, or warn me, I'll just be working on something internet-based, Metlife stuff or bills or Khan Academy classes and suddenly BAM no internet.


I bought a laptop. I went to FreeGeek Chicago, a non-profit organization that tries to help bring tech to low-income people and get people educated and excited about computer tech, building and maintaining your own machines and learning about non-Windows operating systems... you can read more about them at and I revamped my budget for the rest of the month down to the wire, I bought a laptop, and then I went and pawned something dear to me to make sure I could make my crap budget work.

How am I gonna get what I pawned back, you ask? That's an excellent question! I don't know! YAY!!!

... but people seem to think I was being frivolous about needing this stuff. I'm not. I've explained why I suddenly felt I needed a laptop, and I think my reasons are extremely good and valid: it allows me to access this stuff and work on it from PS1's wifi in ways I just can't do on my phone. I can write stories, do blog posts, look up recipes, study math and engineering at, have blueprints immediately available for projects I work on at PS1... it's not just amazingly useful, it's almost a necessity at PS1. It will change how I do things. That's not a joke.

I'll be honest... I was hoping someone would offer me one. Free, or cheap, or as a loan, I was really hoping someone would help me out. But this... it's not on anyone, my hand was forced by this internet fiasco, and having it turns that mess from a dragon's den into a hobbit hole. However, I couldn't wait any longer, and, thankfully, the wonderful people at FreeGeek were helpful and answered questions I had about XUbuntu (which it has instead of Windows). These systems are cleaned up and rebuilt by their volunteers using tested parts and their volunteer program and I'm comfortable with that. Now, it's mine, and I'm comfortable with taking care of anything that might go wrong because there are people at PS1 that would probably lend a hand and their know-how if I just asked.

But I wanted to make this point, that I have so Globdamn little and still sacrificed something I really didn't want to risk to make this happen, because I needed it and feel that, given the balance of the two, this is more important. If I lose what I pawned, I'll deal.

But I still need help. If you can help, I can still use that help. That's still out there, and I'm not too ashamed to take it back. If anyone has a surprise up their sleeve, I'll be grateful.

Be excellent to each other.
Jonny friggin' Panic

Almost gave up. Didn't. Still need your help, though.

TL;DW Notes:

Sleep did not alleviate the depression I developed last night, which is a big problem. A string of small events yesterday afternoon and evening put a bunch of bigger things into perspective, and now I'm heavily weighed down by them.

I'm not going to go into the events of last night; I cover them well enough in the video. The first half or so is all about these events. But it almost culminated in me giving up and quitting Pumping Station 1 not because of anything they did, but because of a combination of studied disinterest and active (albeit not malicious) sabotage by people I know.

PS1 could change the vector of my life... not just professionally, but my very sense of well-being. There's a lot of potential, here. But I can't do it without help. I just... don't... have... the resources. I think I'm doing the right thing by choosing to follow up on this instead of resorting to violence and self-destruction, but a core tenet of this plan is that I have to swallow my pride, ignore the shame I feel in asking, and ask you for help.

Please help.

You people see my life in bits and pieces, when it's convenient and through the lens of my FB and this blog. My life is a constant landslide of rage, despair and helplessness and I have to fight the push of it constantly, every day, all day, with no lens and no breaks to go be someone else. It's a lot of work, but I'm trying very hard to not just give up. But when people ask of me and take from me and then nobody steps up when I need something, or when I need actual help and all I get is applause, I lose hope. I know a few people here are just hoping to see fireworks, waiting for me to lose it all and go up in flames, but I'm hellbent on going a better way if it's at all possible.

I feel like what I'm asking for is unreasonable, but people have been encouraging me to ask because, chances are, to someone out there, these things are mega-simple to make available. I'm going to ask again... I need a 26" bicycle (something that can handle regular city biking), an acoustic guitar and a laptop. The events of last night and today really highlight the importance of these things, since my roommates can't seem to be trusted to provide the reliable internet connection I asked for in my ad a year and a half ago... which they've made clear they didn't read. Right now, at this point in my progress, all three are of paramount importance, and if I had them then my roommates letting the internet drop would be an inconvenience instead of the complete disaster it is right now.

I'm not asking anyone to buy me this stuff, but if you have something I can use (the laptop needs to be fairly recent, within about the last five years or so), then consider donating it, or long-term loaning it to me, or if you offered to sell it cheap enough I'd probably run out and sell blood or something to buy it.

... but I don't have the resources to do this stuff on my own. I'm sorry, I just don't. I've made a lot of changes, like quitting drinking and soda, trying to use Khan Academy ( to teach myself higher mathematics and a bit of coding and electrical engineering, getting medical care and psychological counseling, but I have to ask for stuff like this to make all this work. So I'm still asking.

Be excellent to each other
Jonny Panic

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Failure to assimilate

Critical confidence fail. I need a lot of help that just isn't coming, and I don't know what to do about it. The progress I've made can't keep up with the many facets of deterioration of my well-being, at this rate.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Guitar, banjo, Power Wheels power makes it go!

TL;DW Notes:
I was too exhausted when I got home to do this last night, so here is a post today!

Last night was the PS1 band night, I'm still not sure whether we're going with "Cable Access Jammers" or "Community Access Jammers," but, either way, the Open Office hours notation in the PS1 Events calender spells CAJOO and that's hilarious. I still like the first for the silly "Wayne's World"-esque feel, but either way you should feel free to come by! There tends to be extra instruments, and the idea is that you don't need to know ANYTHING to pick up an instrument, noodle around on it, maybe learn something from another member (or show someone something), and just jam a little, maybe sing, whatever! So far, I have to admit, I'm enjoying myself.

I didn't learn anything new on the acoustic guitar, but it's been a couple of weeks and it was nice to get a refresher on what I knew. I also learned a bit more about their arrangement in a song AND... I learned a little about banjo! Andy has a banjo with the back removed (less twangy that way... less bright and more mellow) and he tuned it as well as the guitar to an open G so I could use the slide if needed, because of my tremors. I'd been having some mechanical trouble with my hands the last couple of days.

Side note: This stuff, even coming at it sideways as I am, is FANTASTIC physical therapy for my fine manual motor control! I love it!!!

Anyways, today, this evening, is the first real meeting of Team N00b, the team of clueless newbies that wants to work on making Power Wheels go unsafe speeds while carrying adults for entertainment and competition purposes! We're going to give the Bluesmobile a good once-over and maybe disassemble it like Johnny-5 to get a closer look at how it's put together and just what it needs in the way of TLC and MOAR POWAR!!!

... sorry. Really excited. This is gonna be fun!

I'll say again, if you wanna see this firsthand, maybe come by, hang out, whatever.

Lastly, I think it's time I learn a bit more in the kitchen. I just REALLY need to get a better handle on my dietary practices; I'd like to just be able to eat healthy without a lot of thought. I want food to be less prominent in my life, so I'm hoping to work out something where I can just put together several days of meals or meal-ready components in advance and then eat with minimal thought for a while. I've quit soda and largely quit fast food already, I think I'm ready for the segue.

Be excellent to each other!
Jonny friggin' Panic

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

No, wait, read that last post's TL;DW Notes, but WATCH THIS VIDEO!

THIS is the video I would have liked to have made for the last post! I'm leaving the other one as-is, but PLEASE read the last post's Notes, and then watch this video!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Slow days, scruffy me, upcoming plans and a list... coz I need stuff more than I need pride

It's been a rainy, slow couple of days. I need to shave and haven't been to PS1 since Sunday, but I'm going tomorrow evening for bicycle clinic (open to the public! Come see, maybe bring your bike if you need a tune-up? I'm out of practice!) and Cable Access Jammers if that's happening this week.

CAJ is Jennie's brainchild, but she's out of town... there are others who have participated but I don't know if we're organized enough to make it happen without her. So, I figure, I'll plan to go for bicycle clinic and see what else is happening.

I'm still trying to not talk myself out of this. I know, I know, I go on and on about it both ways; the problem is that I'm so poor that I have to count every penny invested in anything I do, and I can afford about pocket change when it comes to that. BUT there's plenty of scrap wood, some metal, various other materials. BUT I don't know what kinds they are or which kind is good for what. I need to start small, and I should probably ask dumb questions about what is what. I also need to just set a day with someone who knows the shop... probably Andrew... and spend some time cleaning and putting stuff back so I get a feel for just what is where for the parts and hand tools.

Hmmm... maybe that could be a group thing for all us newbs...

I still need ideas, insight, materials, tips, advice, whatever. Also, I'm trying to get a feel for what I REALLY should have, and I'm starting a list now. If you can help, your help would be GREATLY (and probably publicly) appreciated! To wit:

  • Eye protection, that will fit over my glasses. They have some there, but what is available can vary, so I'd just like my own pair.
  • Cut resistant gloves, just for general protection. I plan to get into the wood shop a lot if I can maintain my confidence; I also plan to keep all my fingers. I'd like to think these two goals aren't in conflict. Maybe I'm just na├»ve.
  • An acoustic guitar. I very much want one to learn on. This whole thing has lit a new fire in me for this.
  • A bicycle. I already have a bit of input on this. I need to be able to get it TO PS1, though... once I have it there, I can assemble, repair and tune it myself as needed, and Jeremy (from the main Power Racing team) has already offered to help me learn to ride it. This is a game-changer, here, probably #1 on my horizon, as it would significantly impact major aspects of my day-to-day life.
  • Concomitant to the above, a decent bike lock. PS1 has a lockpicking hobby group ( whose focus is to make people aware of the risks inherent in various locks; talking with a couple people who are in this group has made me wary of cheap locks.
  • A laptop. This is a big deal, both in my looking for/asking for one and what it would mean to all of this. PS1 has wi-fi, a laptop would allow me to spend more time there while also keeping me connected to any resources I may be using for whatever project. I don't need a new one, but I could really use a strong bare-bones laptop (good case, mobo, processor) from at least Windows 7-era (note: I don't actually NEED Win7, that just gives a tech-era point of reference), and the rest I can add myself as parts are needed and become available. With a decent laptop (probably using Ubuntu, there are plenty of people there that can help me with it), I could go to Jewel-Osco and get some groceries into PS1's kitchen, then spend all day there whether I'm working on something, tinkering, writing or just reading.
I'll say again... I LOATHE asking for help. But this... this is a BIG DEAL. To me, at least. I'm still trying to work out my 2015 taxes and how I'm going to afford the health care I'm trying to get now, but this is the kind of thing that could change my life, and I'm really trying to just swallow my pride and ask for what I need to ask for instead of being stupid and just giving up.

Heh... the TL;DW Notes for this are much, much more involved than the video, which I just made to touch base, say I'm still alive and grumble about trying to not give up.

Let me know if anyone out there has anything to contribute... supplies, advice, tips for woodworking or metalworking, For-Dummies level instruction on... I dunno... electric engines or acoustic guitars. Everything... everything... helps.

Be excellent to each other!
Jonny friggin' Panic

Sunday, May 8, 2016

A pain day in the life

I decided to scrap the video for this post. I don't make much sense and spend a lot of time not speaking. It's junk.

I don't think people get it when I talk about it, but I'm in pain pretty much whenever I'm awake. It's usually manageable, and I function just fine... my standard analogy is to compare it to snow on an old television: annoying when you notice it, but the brain easily learns to tune it to the background. Most days, if I think about it, I can usually estimate it at a 2 or so on a pain scale... bothersome if I notice, but it doesn't interfere much with my day-to-day life.

I'm not even sure how to measure it relative to other people. This is how I measure it compared to my experience with pain. I've dealt with this my whole life, since middle school, and I didn't even realize what I was dealing with WAS pain until someone described this kind of discomfort as a kind of pain. The best way I can think to put it is kind of like muscle fatigue and joint pain, and kind of like being on fire; I burn. I always feel like I'm radiating it.

It CAN be distracting. Left to my own devices with nothing to take away from it, I tend to spend part of my thoughts on managing it. My body doesn't like to be still if I'm not completely comfortable and at rest, so I can get fidgety trying to find a comfy position. Some days, certain parts of my body can be more sore than others, or "bug out" (I can't think of another way to put this) because of my tremors and hurt//tremor without warning. This is especially distressing when it happens with my eyes (it'll cause vertigo and disorientation), my mouth (which will often lead to me biting my tongue or lip if I'm speaking or eating, and can make me stammer), my hands (this is usually when I flat-out drop or break something I'm holding) or my chest (in larger muscle groups, there's usually more musculature around to make up for dysfunctions, but chest pain is just alarming as a rule; it's made weirder when it also involves twitching).

Being a computer nerd (albeit one that's a bit out-of-date and out of practice), I tend to think of mental resources like CPU processes. In this case, I have a process I call painmanagement.exe, and it's usually pretty tame, but there are days where it'll eat a lot of resources. If I seem both distracted (I'm often distracted) AND uncomfortable, this is probably why.

Today, though... today, I hit a 4. EASILY a 4. I'm going to call it a 4 to be safe, but it could have peaked at 5, it's hard to estimate at this extreme because it happens rarely. I'll have 3 days, where I'm uncomfortable but functional, but days like today are both rare and miserable.

It's not just the scale of the pain; it's duration. It's an endurance trial. I'm awake, I'm functional, but ALL THE MUSCLES hurt and won't stop. There is no alleviation, nothing really makes me comfortable and nothing is working quite right. My spatial recognition is out of whack and I have to WORK at all those lovely motor functions that were old hat when I was three years old: walking, especially, is an exercise in supreme coordination. It's like herding cats.

I walked to PS1 today, just to see if the Bluesmobile (the car we're gonna be working on) was available to check out. It wasn't in yet, that's cool, no big deal, but I had hoped the activity and some sunshine would head off the pain. It didn't. Even caffeine didn't help; it didn't make me jittery, it just made me feel more... radioactive, for lack of a better term.

I spent the entire walk there and back concentrating on making everything do what it was supposed to do, consciously moving my feet ahead of each other, trying to not stumble. Am I lumbering? Am I walking a straight line? People probably think I'm drunk. Wait, I'm hunching my back; stop that, stand up straight. What are my shoulders doing? I think they're hunched, too. No, now they're slumped down. Pull them up and back. Hey, the neck is hunched, too. Yeah, but that's to control the head; earlier, it was nodding around like we were some kind of bobblehead. What the hell are the arms doing? They're hardly swinging! Well, earlier, they were kind of flailing around. Guys, we're starting to goose-step, reel it back a bit and pretend to relax. Can we manage a "stroll?" Let's try singing a bit as we go, that usually helps. Nope, not enough breath to spare. The fingers are splayed, let's bring them in... we're not ACTUALLY radiating heat, y'know, that doesn't really help. HEY! Breathing! You have to exhale as much as you inhale or we'll end up holding our breath! Dammit, we're lumbering again and it's pissing off the right knee; bring it in line, people! Alright, what the hell is the face doing? We were scowling and scaring people, so I pulled the ears back and tried for a neutral face. Well, lets try to keep the brow from furrowing, but relax the ears, that's starting to cause a muscle tension headache in the temples. The mouth is closed, right? Okay. Stop flaring the nostrils so much. Guys, we're wearing sunglasses, we don't need to narrow the eyes that much. DAMMIT now we're staggering around again. KEEP IT IN LINE!!!

I had thought maybe problems I'd developed were due to trauma; after my first up-and-over on DeKalb St in '94, I had started experimenting more and more with what I could survive because, apparently, I'd spent my youth afraid of pain when I actually had quite a knack for dealing with it. The doctor that diagnosed me, however, pointed out nerve damage too systematic to be from trauma, and we had a lengthy discussion about the possibility that the widespread metabolic damage from decades of untreated Graves' may have resulted in this nerve damage. There was supposed to be more investigation, but... well... that stuff is for people with money and a supportive partner. All of my money was being funneled into an increasingly disinterested partner, so, y'know, screw me.

Days like this... they're rare. I had a lot of them a few years back, to the point that I experienced personality changes (which, sadly, nobody around me could be bothered to notice, let alone be worried about. I REALLY wish someone had, but hey I always have hindsight!), but, nowadays, they happen very occasionally. But, with one happening today, it gives me a first-hand chance to illustrate to people just how bad it can get, and talk about how this stuff affects my day-to-day behavior. I know I can seem disinterested, distracted, irritable, but be aware that it's often because of this, not you. If more people understand that, and understand that people can be sick and in pain without actively missing limbs or being on fire (or having to yell "CANCER!!!"), it creates a better environment for those afflicted. I don't like being shut out just because my behavior is misinterpreted, and I spend a lot of my internal resources just coping with it and making myself presentable.

I forgot where I was going with this, except to illustrate a strong pain day firsthand. I guess I'd just like people to recognize that I'm not as anti-social as I may seem, I just have a constant something extra to deal with and sometimes it can get hectic. Pain is difficult to express, especially when you start life dealing with it naturally, and I know plenty of solipsists who can't be bothered to think of what dealing with this kind of thing is like if they don't deal with it themselves. Social stigma for chronic pain is problematic... express yourself and fight it. You're human, too.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Woodworking authorizations! Hanging out, sleep dep, upcoming tour video, visiting NWI

TL;DW Notes:

Got authorized to use the woodworking tools this evening... however, I don't feel confident enough to just charge into doing whatever, and I might take another woodworking authorization class just to better set what I have learned. I'll need to come up with simple but productive projects for me to do on each device to better cement my understanding of their use and care and safety practices, probably with the help of a more practiced member that can lend their insight.

Also, just hung out with Justin, Jennie and Lynn and one of the other new members (I can't remember his name!) for a while, joking around, trading stories and talking about some of the things PS1 has coming up, especially the Mini Maker Faire this saturday at Schurz High School on Milwaukee from 10 AM to 4 PM. Go take a look around at all the neat tech and enjoy!

I didn't make it in time to make that tour video, but I'm going to do it with Jennie's help this afternoon. Depending on who else is around, I may also rope others into adding to it.

I have sleep problems and have pretty much all my adult life; it's a side effect of my condition, but it's been such a fact of life that it's old hat to me. I often get nowhere near enough sleep and then, occasionally, crash for half the day... this isn't because of anything, diet or exercise or drugs, just because my body doesn't regulate its metabolism properly. I usually have 2-4 extra hours in my day, but it's taxing and unpredictable.

Because of this, I can ride the clock around and end up sleeping at odd times no matter what I should be doing. I have some tools to deal with it, but, since my body responds poorly to most sleep aids (even melatonin makes me useless the next day), and my time homeless has given me REMARKABLE walking-sleep responses (so even klaxon alarms across the room can be turned off without me actually waking up), those tools are usually brute force and often boil down to "stay awake a really long time and crash when I should be sleeping." Once I get it lined up right, it usually works to some degree for the next week or two, with a slow slide later and later.

I'm mentioning this because, obviously, my hours are completely bass-ackwards right now, and I need them straightened out for this weekend (i.e. tomorrow) so I may end up just staying up all day and that tour video might bear witness to me going a little loopy from sleep dep. BUT others will be involved, and they should be able to help me stay on-track if I go too far astray!

I'm not going to do TL;DW Notes for my first few videos. I've done a few now, and will continue to do them from here on out, but going back to do them is just an unnecessary hassle. I hope you appreciate those posts as they stand.

I'm going back to NWI this weekend to spend time with people I care about. If you're gonna be in the area and have time, drop me a line and we'll see if we can't work out some hangout time! Keep in mind, though... I'm coming in on the South Shore: no car.

Be excellent to each other, and enjoy the awesome weather we're supposed to have today!
Jonny friggin' Panic

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Band went sideways in the best possible way. Also... new! TL;DW notes!

TL;DW Notes:

I had a couple of hard days where I kept asking myself just what I'm doing at PS1 without an idea or ready contributions. I had really talked myself out of going for a bit, but then stopped psyching myself out and just went yesterday to the weekly Open House and Member Meeting. Since I joined last week, we've gained several more members, which is exciting, and there were new and interested people at the meeting asking questions and introducing themselves. It was nice meeting people, talking with others and just getting out of my head a bit. There was discussion about Ant-Man and how physics didn't really exist for him but it's a fun movie anyways, despite the "Honey I Shrunk the Kids"-esque mass dilemma.

I once again talk about how there is no "higher power" to answer to in this organization; the Board, even, is just fellow members who have also volunteered to take on the onerous duties of running this organization's operational decisions, just as scheduling, and managing the budget. There is no "selling pressure," there are no quotas to fill. PS1 is a non-profit organization and membership fees go into maintaining PS1, repairs and upgrades (if we can't do them ourselves), and purchasing supplies, equipment and new tools for the space. That's how it is.

Tonight was PS1's open band night, but some people weren't able to make it. We only had three of us there and a couple of people pop in; we also had a dearth of instruments, but we still fiddled with what we had and enjoyed ourselves. We had a banjo, an acoustic guitar, a trombone, some wood blocks and... there's a washtub base stored at PS1, for whatever reason, so we grabbed that and experimented with it. Great fun just goofing off, and I actually came to a bit of a realization that maybe I'm psyching myself out when it comes to acoustic guitar... if I just want to play some music and enjoy myself, then I don't have to turn it into a whole science project. I don't need to learn how to do everything perfectly right out of the gate. It was also pointed out to me that there are tuner apps for my phone, so I don't need to stress super-hard about tuning. However, the guitar we had has just been lying around and we broke the nylon strings on it trying to tune it. Ah well, people are already ready to restring it!

The three of us got talking, however, about band and instruments and the Power Racing series and other things and we kind of got off the band track a bit, but we were all excited. The other guy was interested in our newbie Power Racing crew (tentative name: N00b Team!) and decided to join after seeing the other vehicle and asking some questions. We also decided that maybe we should look into making musical instruments and seeing if others were interested. That might also become a regular thing. Then we got on the subject of motorcycles, and we're all interested in the idea of learning to fix up motorcycles, and it spun off into a discussion about a group to learn to repair and restore motorcycles. from being complete newbies... because we can.

It's wild how quickly a conversation turns into a half-dozen possible groups and projects in a creative environment like this.

So, now, we're all about band, and making instruments, and restoring motorcycles, We looked up pics of the Bluesmobile (the Power Wheels vehicle we''re being given access to so we can work on it) and talked about things we may need to do with it. It was just a very exciting, fun, productive spontaneous meeting.

There is a Mini Maker Faire happening at Schurz High School at 3601 N Milwaukee ( and PS1 will have a table there. We're also going to be providing kits and showing people how to make little electronic "optical theremins." You can see me show you one and demonstrate it in the vid at about 15:15. Anyways, as we wrapped up PS1 Band/Everything Else, Justin roped Jennie and myself into helping assemble the kits, and that was a pleasant bit of hanging out and being productive, where (obviously) I even got to make a noisemaker! But I won't be around to help with the Faire, so this was my chance to contribute.

I know a lot of great, creative, brilliant people in the area. This environment is fluid and spontaneous and helpful and provides a LOT of resources, and I think... pretty much everyone would benefit from this. However, I think I'm not properly conveying the scale of the hackerspace phenomenon and the resources and camaraderie it provides, so I'm going to try to get together with other members and do a quick video tour with my phone to post for you... keeping in mind that, right now, it's 6,000 square feet on two floors, but we just arranged to take over the rest of the building, which will add another 4,000 sq ft. I want you to see how amazing this place is, and consider checking it out... whether you join or just come to observe and hang out, you can do that too!

Also, I know people aren't really following a lot of this. I ramble, and my videos run long. I'm looking into two changes... One, these TL;DW blog notes, for a quick read if you don't want to watch my videos (or listen to them like a podcast), and two, I'm looking into learning how to do some basic video editing to trim down some of the circular rambling I do and take out most of the "um"s and "uh"s. I hope people enjoy the changes as they arrive.

Two last notes: I realized that I have a sort of "itch to scratch"... for a decade, now, I've had an idea for a costume that would require making hooves. I have an idea for this, something approximating actual, ironshod hooves for me, and so now I have to learn to make and/or modify size 14 leather boots. Cosplayers and leatherworkers, lemme know if you have any thoughts for a newbie! Also, it turns out Jennie is also a HUGE fan of the webcomic Scary Go Round, I LOVE this webcomic... it's why I say "dang" so much nowadays. I don't have a top 5 webcomics, but if I did it would be in my top 5. I don't, though, and it'd STILL be in my top 5, because it's so awesome it breaks barriers like that. It's awesome to meet another SGR fan!

Anyways, hope you like the changes, and, of course, be excellent to each other!
Jonny friggin' Panic

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Hackerspaces want YOU!

... to come, visit, hang out, see what we're doing, think, imagine, create, join the movement and do something great, or fun, or silly, or weird... whatever! Do something!!!

TD;DW Notes:

Hackerspaces are awesome! Went to the meeting for the Power Racing Series, met others interested. Patrick is basically the man who started it, Jeremy is also deeply involved, they had a lot to say about what they've been doing.

Jennie had the idea that, since Patrick and Jeremy were so far along with their vehicle and the first race was coming up, but Jennie and I are COMPLETE NOOBS when it comes to any of this, so she suggested we form our own group and do our own car. We're gonna screw it up, we're gonna break stuff, but we're gonna learn STUFF. Not a car to compete, just a car as a shared learning experience. (Others have since joined the project, it's very exciting!) In the meantime, Patrick and Jeremy are still going to advise and encourage us. They want people to just get involved, get excited, do this thing!

I also talk (again!) about the fact that YOU can just STOP BY... it doesn't have to be a big deal. Stop in at PS1, hang out, look around, ask questions, see what people are doing, talk to them, enjoy it! Pumping Station: One LIKES the public coming by to see what they are like, and is a VERY encouraging environment whatever your interest!

I still need... stuff. I go into it in the video, around 6:40. I could use tools, materials and such, and the 'space welcomes donations of materials and resources. If you have stuff not being used and you feel bad that it's not being used, consider donating it to PS1, or a local hackerspace or open workshop, or do something with it!

(I'll say again, now, I still need a bicycle, although I've been offered one and I just need to get it from East Chicago to Avondale, I need an acoustic guitar, and I THINK I'm going to need a laptop... nothing fancy, but at least Windows-7-era, although I can't promise I won't install Ubuntu on it. I also need tips and project ideas, no matter how basic. It's how I'll learn!)

"Gullible" is written on the ceiling. If you don't believe me, and maybe you shouldn't, then come investigate for yourself!

I spend some time talking about the amazing energy of the community, PS1 has a fantastic assortment of tools for whatever technical and/or artistic endeavor you undertake and members that just want to help you do or learn whatever your interest is! It's a wonderful self-empowering community that just wants people to create and share! Expand your horizons, learn, create, share, encourage each other, be happy and share the ideology!

I might just stash some groceries there so I can just start being there more, although Jewel-Osco is RIGHT across the street so that may not even be necessary.