Noise at BSidesSF.

Feb 20 2017

My day job sent me to BSidesSF at the DNA Lounge this year.  If you've never been to one before (and this was my first, due to unforseen circumstances some years ago), they're a loosely connected group of security conferences under the BSides name organized along the lines of an unconference.  This is to say that the dynamic of "presenter and audience" is not the primary goal of a BSides, getting people together to talk about what's going on and what they're doing is the point.  In other words, birds-of-a-feather gatherings among attendees (usually over a beer) are the accepted and encouraged mode of conference participation.  Of course, there was also a lockpicking village and a small number of vendors.

There were also more people in attendence at the DNA than I've seen in a long time.  This meant more background noise and sensory interference than I was prepared for.  Hasufin (who was also attending) had to rescue me on one occasion, pull me down the block, and drop me off in a coffee shop to recuperate.  I also found it very helpful to go for a brief stroll the let my sensory threshold return to normal.

After the cut, my best attempt at depicting what all of that noise looked like.  It wasn't pleasant.

Status report: President's Day

Feb 20 2017

I'm still alive.  No, I didn't party too much on my birthday.  Just about all of last week consisted of twelve hour days of nothing but meetings with several times the number of people I'm accustomed to handling simultaneously.  Additionally, I was working on a music review for Vampire Step-Dad, which required a pair of studio grade noise-cancelling headphones and listening to tracks repeatedly.  I seem to have given myself a case of sensory overload, because now I feel numb all over... I also attended Pantheacon last weekend, which did a number on me.  I realize that I could (and should) have holed up in my hotel room with a pair of earplugs in to recuperate, and there was no shortage of signs on Saturday morning that I should have done so.  Signs, I hasten to add, that I disregarded in a perhaps inadvisable attempt to push my capabilities a bit farther than normal.

Minor repairs are required for parts of my exocortex as a result of pushing myself too far.

I have a timed post or two set to go up this week, but I'll be spending as much time as I can offline to recuperate.

Music Reviews by a Synaesthete: Vampire Step-Dad

Feb 09 2017

I've mentioned in the past that I've been bumping around on the edges of the synthwave community for a couple of years now in various ways.  A couple of weeks ago I got a ping on Twitter from an artist performing under the handle Vampire Step-Dad.  During the course of conversation he mentioned that he'd put together an EP called A Night In the Life of..., and would I be interested in giving it a listen?

I'm always down for some new music, and said that I'd write a review of his work from a synaesthete's perspective.

So, here we go.

What's it like having synaesthesia?

Jan 03 2017

What's it like not having synaesthesia?

That sounds like a flippant answer, but it's quite the truth.  I can't remember a time when I didn't experience sounds (music, in particular) in a deep, visceral way that involved more than just my sense of hearing.  For the longest time I thought everybody's experience of life was like mine.  I thought everybody cried when they heard violin music.  I thought everybody felt waves of cold and prickles when they heard sounds made up of square waves (yeah, I'm dating myself, aren't I?)  Didn't everybody shiver and see starbursts of pink and purple light when they heard a particular chord progression on the radio (strangely, the original Also Sprach Zarathustra doesn't have that effect on me - must be the pedals Andy Summers used in the studio)?  Didn't everybody feel... pain... when they just heard something shrieking or screaming, like bus brakes or the scream of a dentist's drill (note: video of actual drill-and-fill; feel free to not click on it)?

To answer my (rhetorical) question another way, everybody seems to be synaesthetic to some degree.  Take a look at this image.

Now, tell me: Of what you see in that image file, which one is Kiki and which one is Bouba?

Why I dislike loud parties.

Dec 22 2016

Generally speaking, I dislike loud and busy parties.  I find that my senses become overloaded in a very short period of time - all the voices, all the background sounds, all the random noise, the echoes from hard surfaces... it's very unpleasant.  After a short period of time in such an environment, my vision is all but useless.  The fog, the mist, the random colors.. on top of that, my tactile sense goes nuts.  Being rubbed down with wet and dry sponges, fans blowing on the front and back of my head at full blast, my legs vibrating backwards and forwards (and knees dont bend backwards), my fingers bending in a direction they don't go in... it's not a pleasant environment to be in.

Base image was taken at the EPIC awards banquet in 2014, Washington, DC.  I've just now gotten around to trying to depict what sensory overload looks like.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging: Phase C

Oct 23 2016

This was the last part of the imaging procedure that I remember before deciding that I should probably take a nap. I didn't get a lot of sleep the night before, and let's be honest, being stuffed into the core of a superconducting magnet for a couple of hours gets boring after a while. I can only entertain myself so much... I can best characterize this part of the imaging procedure as "Shit got real."

Something cranked up deep inside the core of the machine and my vision went red, and then it started to bleed in and out. At this point I lost track of time because I started to lose track of where I was. I had to open my eyes periodically to look at the plain, white surface of the MRI's imaging tube because I wasn't able to watch it for long. Then a bunch of repeated shrieks and moans started kicking up all around my head and rainbow bursts started coming out of nowhere, flaring brightly enough to obscure my vision, and popping out of existence, over and over and over again. Those shrieks and moans did something completely fucked up to my kinesthetic sense.

I felt like I was falling, like I'd just fallen off of a high rooftop or been pushed out of a plane. My stomach lurched because it felt like it was the last part of me to move. I fell and kept falling... it wasn't pleasant, it was scary. It was like sky diving without a parachute. I fell and kept falling...

This was around the point that I decided that elfnapping was the smart thing to do, before I fell into vertigo and possibly threw up all over myself.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging: Phase B

Oct 23 2016

I drew this depiction of what phase B of the MRI I had done in October of 2014 looked like. The sounds seemed to come from four places around me - two just above my head and two somewhere around my shoulders, or maybe my abdomen. I'm not sure because the sounds from the multiple points resonated weirdly inside my head and made some of my dental implants feel like they were buzzing (at the time that wasn't possible because they were all resin composite, but work with me here). The sounds made these weird, watery waves that made an almost but not quite X shape that alternately rippled like rain on a pond and quivered like a bowl of water on top of a really well constructed bass speaker cranked up to 7 or 8 right out of the amp.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging: Phase A

Oct 23 2016

Late in 2014 I had cause to undergo magnetic resonance imaging of my head as a diagnostic procedure. If you've never had one before, this procedure can involve a head x-ray (to make sure you don't have any ferrous material in tender places that might get ripped out by a very powerful magnetic field). It definitely does involve an hour or two laying on your back on a backboard with snug straps holding you in place (because if you move it'll mess up the imaging data) while you're stuffed into a relatively small tube in the core of the MRI machine. This meant that I had a couple of hours to enjoy the unusual sounds that MRI machines make when they're in full operation with someone inside. I'll admit, after the first hour or so I decided to take a nap and wait the rest of the procedure out, but while I was awake I made a point of memorizing what the sounds looked like.

The image beneath the cut is what a sequence of sounds near the beginning of the process looked like. The broad color bars on the left-hand side were some sort of deep thrumming or groaning sound on my left-hand side. The double vertical line of yellow blocks was a stacatto knocking sound that seemed to trace my head on my right-hand side from crown to neck. It also felt like my right hand was vibrating violently, like it was being shaken up and down.

This is only an approximation - I'm no artist so this is the best I can do. The background's black because I had my eyes closed.