Body in as-in condition. Eye lenses 40 y/o, other parts exchanged

The photos in this post are from a new dinner-guest set I did recently. You can see them on the main homepage.

Next year I’m turning 40, and I’ve been gingerly anticipating the much talked about crisis which should precipitate right about this (arbitrary) time of life. Or maybe it’s not that arbitrary: we’re creatures of pattern-finding after all, and once we see a pattern we imbue it with meaning. So ten fingers, ten years, something meaningful has to happen every decade so why not a crisis.

The most obvious manifestation of male age-related chrisis would be an “oh no, what am I doing with my life, I ought to get a motorcycle or some other external manifestation of movement and direction”. A couple of years ago, while I was permanently unemployed freelancing and had little daily routine, I didn’t feel this as much – today, when I’ve had the same job on going on four years, been in a stable relationship for eight, and have set a new low in personal productivity, a motorcycle seems a fit.

Or at least a metaphorical motorcycle. In my case the motorcycle has manifested as a light body dysmorphia and a feeling that I ought to better myself and do something with my life. Be a positive force in society, engage politically, write a book. Create an app?

The body dysmorphia is an odd thing. It started out as a general “let’s get fitter” feeling, moved towards “ok, lets focus on powerlifting and get strong”, took a detour past “I look like flabby going on fat in the vacation pictures”, and I’m now entertaining ideas of labelling all food in the house with a calory count and amino-composition. Beginning as an offhand joke about looking better in holiday snaps, I’ve now internalised an unhealthly self-image and it’s a habit as difficult to give up as smoking.

As I recall, I wasn’t as preoccupied by my looks when I kept my mind occupied, so perhaps it’s just a symptom of not getting enough creative work done. If the sum of our quirks is constant, it’s only because we understand some quirks to be endearing or part of our personality and drive, that we distinguish between feeling fine and “not ourselves”.

(I shouldn’t exaggerate the body dysmorphia part – I’m not starving myself or call myself names in the mirror or somesuch. It’s a difference in degree though, not essense, so perhaps body dysmorphlight?)

In the spirit of seeing all problems as rationally solvable (even if the means might be irrational) I’m trying to come up with ways to occupy my obviously wandering mind. (I have computer games and Netflix, but that tends to exacerbate the malaise – especially in combination with my periodic depression.) There’s plenty of creative work to be done at work, but I don’t have the time to do it since administration takes up my days. The art projects I have going on have all become long to-do lists, and as much as I enjoy creating those it’s demoralising when you can’t cross stuff out every once in a while. The biohacking lab I’ve been trying to start hasn’t gathered traction and we’ve yet to do anything productive.

Maybe it’s not another project I need (“I ought to play the piano”, “I ought to read all the books”) but a a sounder approach to life in general? Oh dear, that sounds like another kind of midlife crisis symptom, doesn’t it? I have been looking at meditation retreats, so maybe it’s not a hobby I need to find but “myself”? Oh dear.

Or maybe reasserting control over my everyday life and tidying up is exactly what I need to get priorities straight? Perhaps I could just fix all this with a long weekend cleaning up, tossing books I’ll never read, arranging our bills in a spreadsheet and finally settling on how to sync my calendars between computers and phone? Too much in my life is just running along, so grabbing my LAN by the balls, fixing a proper NAS backup and deleting old files might be just the spring cleaning my mind needs?

Come to think of it, the time I feel most relaxed is when the apartment has just been vacuumed and tidied and I can make tea without having to navigate dirty dishes. So if I start there, and do some pullups in between, perhaps this spring can start out a bit more harmonious? Ok? Ok! Let’s start by creating a todo-list…

MateuszBody in as-in condition. Eye lenses 40 y/o, other parts exchanged

On starting and/or finishing

Try to minimize time to your first “failure” (rejecting a hypothesis), and don’t be afraid to push the eject button. A classic error is to spend months working on an engine, architecture, or something else that has nothing to do with proving out your core design idea. Prototypes don’t need “engines.” Prototypes are slipshod machines held together by bubble gum and leftover bits of wire that test and prove simple ideas as quickly as possible.

→ Levity Lab, Chaim Gingold: Catastrophic Prototyping and Other Stories

Mercurio said she suspected producers were using levamisole because it can cause a small high that adds to coke’s kick. The drug devastates blood vessels under the skin, causing patches to turn black and rot off, she said. “In one of the more interesting ones, the patient used cocaine again and developed the same skin reaction again,” Dr. Noah Craft, another co-author, told KTLA television. “He then switched drug dealers, and the problem cleared up.”

→ NY Daily News, Philip Caulfield: Cocaine cut with levamisole

Stephen talks about the traditional role of a photograph as recording something real that happend. Analog photography is about fixing something and creating an artifact but digital is the opposite of this. The photograph becomes more fluid and online it is never static, there are an infinite amount of changes that can be made to it. He goes on to say that while the photography business is in decline this is a moment for invention not dismay.

→ A Photo Editor, Rob Haggart: The Future Of Photography Is In The Photographer Not The Photograph

MateuszOn starting and/or finishing

Me write pretty one day

Thanks to Anna Ganslandt I was next in line for a “artists writing relay” which Kultur i Väst organized. The theme of the project was “honestly speaking” [ärligt talat] and I wrote about my latest project counting sand grains, and the impossibility of not creating meaning. If you’d care to read it (in Swedish) you can do so here: Apparently my text was so good that I killed the project, since my essay will be the last in the relay. More likely the project didn’t get the traction they were hoping for and they scrapped it, but still.

MateuszMe write pretty one day

Racist, Fascist, Nationalist, whatever

När jag i veckan skrev en krönika om de tafsande invandrarkillarna och klargjorde hur det stod till med invandrares brottslighet, så kröp rasister och smygrasister fram ur sina hålor. Uppenbarligen fick det inte vara så som jag skrev, att 99,9 procent av landets första- och andra generations invandrare inte sitter inlåsta i fängelser, häkten eller på ungdomshem på grund av brottslighet. Så låt mig redogöra för mina siffror, och några till.

→ Para§raf, Dick Sundevall: Rasisterna kröp fram ur sina hålor

– Är det något jag tänker på är det just det – att vi sverigedemokrater fortfarande betraktas som paria, som en sämre sorts människor man kan bete sig hursomhelst mot. Jag kommer aldrig glömma när min sons förskollärare kallade mig ”nazist”. Det och det faktum att min allra bästa vän sa upp kontakten med mig förra året, det är två händelser som har satt såriga spår.

→ Dagens Nyheter, Ulrika By: SD:s toppnamn: ”Bussa Stockholmselever för att motverka segregationen”

Sverigedemokraternas första partiledare ­Anders Klarström hade sin bakgrund i Nordiska rikspartiet. Klarström dömdes för att ha ringt upp tv-stjärnan Hagge Geigert och skrikit: ”Vi ska bränna dig ditt jävla judesvin. Fy fan, ditt äckliga lilla judesvin. Passa dig! Vi ska komma och döda dig!” Patrik Ehn gjorde samma resa som Klarström. Ehn gick med i SD 1988. När han pluggade till SO-lärare vid Uppsala universitet under 90-­talet bytte han parti till Centern men uteslöts och återkom till SD.

→, Björn af Kleen: Den nya högern – ett eko från 1930-talet

For all their bleating about freedom of speech, these people don’t seem to know what it actually means. It is not the glorious, consequence-free paradise they imagine in which they get to say whatever they like to whomever they like while enjoying the luxury of that person silently taking it with no pushback. For too long, speech on the internet has been consequence free. It has mainly served to support abusive trolls who, despite the frequency with which they appear to be pictured with families, seem to have nothing better to do than stalk women online to try and scare them into shutting up.

→ Daily Life – Clementine Ford – Why I reported hotel supervisor Michael Nolan’s abusive comment to his employer

MateuszRacist, Fascist, Nationalist, whatever

Let’s enjoy being lettered!

Some friends and relatives visited the city over the weekend and we got together for discussions and beers. We came to discuss the definition of the word “trustworthiness” as it applies to journalistic practice – especially since today people who are journalists one day might freelance as PR flacks or marketers the next. Ten years ago this was, if not unthinkable, discouraged and might brand you a hack. There were always exceptions, but it required a major talent or brand recognition for you to be able to switch roles without losing face.

I’m a bit torn here – maybe because I’m not a professional journalist who has to face the realities of that profession – but in our discussion I came down on the side of “let the work speak for itself and be judged on its merits”. Thus, I didn’t think that a journalist being an agitator, activist or marketer was a question of trustworthiness, but rather a branding issue for the publication. In practice, I’m not sure if I’m holding myself to such a high standard as a reader – if I read an article by a known right-wing sympathiser, I will cast more doubt over his/her reporting than I would otherwise, and I’m my knowledge of their alliegence taints my interpretation of what they’re presenting. I acknowledge that even a nazi can write a level-headed article on gardening, but don’t give as much benefit of a doubt when they’re writing on immigration.

If a publication wants to be respected for doing good journalism, there have to be objective standards to which it holds it’s writers and editors, and these standards and practices have to be applied uniformly and be transparent for all. Shouldn’t this be promoted as the “journalistic value” rather than a journalists background?

The general problem with journalists is still that they’re often a self-selected and self-reaffirming group of people, representing in their makeup a small part of Swedish society, and anyone too extreme is usually weeded out (Chomsky has written plenty on journalism which is worth reading). It’s similar to a bureaucracy in that regard, and as long as there are ways to publish outside of the mainstream it’s a manageable problem. But this still means that we ought to know what rules they are playing by. And here’s the crux of the whole “trustworthiness” thing for me: Considering how the Internet in general and social media in particular is used, and the fact that the net never forgets anything, anything you’ve ever done can be used to cast doubt on your credibility. If you’ve posted a photo of yourself eating strawberry cream cake, your credibility to write “balanced journalism” regarding the dairy industry or animal rights can be tarnished. I’m not saying that it should be, but allow fifty people to band together online, disparaging your eating habits, and suddenly the ombudsman at your paper might feel the need to defend your trustworthiness as a journalist covering these things.

Basically, although a desk editor might question your journalistic practices if you come from a tainted background, framing the scrutiny as a principled stand based on how your readership might perceive the conflict of interest is a race to the bottom – because there’s no end to what your readership will be offended by. There’s a quote from Cardinal Richelieu which goes “Give me six lines written by the most honorable of men, and I will find an excuse in them to hang him.” [the quote is contested according to Wikipedia] and social media allow us to not only find those six lines, but also conscript a mob delighted to fashion a noose. If those six lines were a bit embellished, well, at least someone got to hang as a warning example even though not for an actual crime.

I’m reading Jon Ronsons book “So you’ve been publicly shamed” at the moment, and even though it’s tangential to the issues of credibility we discussed over the weekend, the functions of online justice is well outlined. With the onslaught described in the book I understand why editors and publisher are concerned with credibility – even though an editor might not agree with my understanding of the issue at all – but on principle I don’t see that there’s a long term viability in stopping their journalists from jumping between roles. In practice this will further narrow the pool of people you are offering jobs since only those who can afford to be “untainted” will be considered, and those who have not been public members of a political party, union, association or NGO will be more palatable than their counterparts – which will narrow your recruiting pool even further. This doesn’t necessarily increase your trustworthiness as a publication, but it makes your job to manage your brand as “trustworthy” easier. I’m not sure that’s a good thing, and I don’t see an end to it.

In an attempt to counteract the effects of our echo chambers, The Guardian has a weekly feature called Burst your bubble which highlights five US conservative articles or publications. It’s on my reading list these days and I highly recommend it.

However inadvertently, the U.S. military lit the fire that burned down the old order. As it turned out, no matter the efforts of the globe’s greatest military, no easy foreign solution existed when it came to Iraq. It rarely does.
Unfortunately, few in Washington were willing to accept such realities. Think of that as the 21st century American Achilles’ heel, unwarranted optimism about the efficacy of U.S. power.

→ War is boring, Danny Sjursen: America Has Misused Its Military Power in the Middle East

Over at Metafilter, a post showed up about the virtual photography of Second Life. I have a personal interest in the subject since my BA essay from when I studied photography was concerned with virtual photography – link to work on homepage. There are some interesting links there, and this is one:

Photography is the art of seeing, selecting, framing, and timing an image occurring in things that (usually) the photographer has not helped make or design. Of course there can be exceptions, just as in Second Life a person can build things and then photograph them, but the thing that’s unique about photography as an art is that it is all about receiving.

→ The winged girl blog, Kate Amdahl: Is Second Life Photography Real Photography?

MateuszLet’s enjoy being lettered!

Agnotology and narrativium

The Wikipedia article on agnotology – learned ignorance – seems relevant. For posterities sake, let it be known that Donald Trump just got sworn in as president in US, and that there seems to be a general cloud of ignorance spreading (of which he’s merely the symptom).

[Agnotologies] use as a critical description of the political economy has been expanded upon by Michael Betancourt in a 2010 article titled “Immaterial Value and Scarcity in Digital Capitalism” […] the systemic production and maintenance of ignorance is a major feature that enables the economy to function as it allows the creation of a “bubble economy”.

I’ve been trying to make sense of my world and worldview the past year, and I think I’ve been much too lazy in my assumption that everything is on some sort of track. Yes there’s climate change and a whole host of other crisis which loom on the horizon, but there was this sense that at least “we knew” what needed to be done. My fault was that the group with which I identify as “we” isn’t that homogeneous nor large enough to stand uncontested. There’s plenty of folks who don’t agree with my views, and at the moment they’re gaining momentum on the Nascar roundabout of public discourse. I’ve whined about this previously, but I really thought that the next question on the agenda was going to be womens rights and mitigation of the anthropocene, not a rerun of the “clash of civilizations” and all which that entails. In that sense I fit into the “arrogant intellectual” narrative we’ve heard so much about lately – there’s an assumption that it’s enough to “be right” and somehow the story will follow it as a red thread and reach a conclusion of the arc.

My reliance on story metaphors come from reading The Science of Discworld by Terry Pratchett, a pop-sci book about the rules of our universe, evolution and science in general, and it contrasts our own world with that of Discworld, where narrativium is a driving force for change and action. Narrativium is such a compelling element that it’s easy to envision it in our everyday world. Things are the way they are because that’s how they’re most likely to be because the world is more or less reasonable – it’s a combination of the Aristotelian idea of potentiality and Leibniz suggestion that we live in the best of worlds, and it’s rather alluring. At least as long as the world conforms to our ideas of what “just makes sense”.

To me, racism doesn’t make sense so should be on it’s way out. Human rights make sense so ought to be in the ascendant, just as nationalism seems such an outdated modality that it’s difficult to take seriously. But then again, that’s me using my own supply of narrativium – and we each have our own supply. Narrativium isn’t measured in kilograms or inches, but perhaps rather in memes and personal energy. Every time we are exposed to a sexist comment our narrativium is depleted and replaced by someone elses, and after a while the resulting narrative changes. Even if we don’t agree with the sexist comments, they becomes so commonplace that it’s just as things are. We don’t have to change our mind or values for the story to change, we just need to become complacent and forget how we create our own narratives – and suddenly we’re extras in a completely different story.

Being a Pollyanna won’t change the world. It requires work and protest and organisation and speaking with others, but above all it requires that we don’t forget that humans shape the human world, and shaping things is a craft which takes practice and reinvention. And as the sands shift, perhaps we want to start practicing so we don’t happen spill our leaky backpacks.

Edit 29/1: I found an article by way of Metafilter which seems to have a similar take on matters: Holocaust rememberance and the Neverending Story

MateuszAgnotology and narrativium

A drop of this, a drop of that

I went to Stockholm over a weekend to participate in two workshops which Stockholm Makerspace gave in their biolab. Saturday we covered the basics of pipetting — which really benefitted from a hands-on workshop — and Sunday we poured agar plates and smeared germs all over the place. Fun was had by all!

A repeated mantra for the tutors was “biology is messy and not a precise science” which was encouraging. Comparing to the nitpicky measuring I faced last summer when trying to learn some chemistry, what with moles and so on, it was liberating that what seemed most important was to be consistent rather than precise. Oh, and sterile. You want to be sterile.


The difference between looking at videos and reading books, and actually getting to measure 20µg of a stock solution, is the same as when I was interviewing people about picking locks and getting to try it out myself. Perhaps not the same level of empowerment as being able to pick locks, but still a new skill and a better understanding of the amount of work required to do this kind of stuff. The workshops in combination with the Biohack crash course for artists video feels like a first step towards actually doing something, which is always a nice feeling.

As a side note, I did a month of Piracetam and saw an increase in recall and attention, as well as very vivid dreaming. 8/10 would recommend. As there’s tolerance involved I’ve abstained for a couple of weeks but will get back on those soon. Once you take performance enhancing drugs, the incentive to keep at it is quite high — barring side effects. There are a bunch of other *racetams with related effects, and once I’ve gone through the Piracetam I might give those a try. I got mine from Nootropicsdepot which has a good reputation and delivered promptly.

MateuszA drop of this, a drop of that

Behold, for I am node

Internet of Things (IoT) has been all the rage the last couple of years, and I really don’t understand it. Let’s summarize some objections:

    Any 1 added feature to a [n]etwork increases the risks to it exponentially: n+(n+1).
    The connectivity is the feature and any security measures decrease connectivity so is at odds with it’s main purpose, which becomes an inherent security problem when there’s a plethora of new products and services which compete to be first to market.
    IoT turns our behaviours into data which can be mined without our own interests at heart.
    IoT further pushes the idea of a “citizen” as a “consumer” into a “consumer as product.”

Any 1 added feature to a network [n] increases the risks to it exponentially: n+(n+1)

If you add one IoT lightbulb to your home, giving it access through your own network, any mistake on the part of the manufacturer or nefarious activity targeting your lightbulbs services, exposes the rest of your network for potential attacks. Your lightbulb becomes the vector, and suddenly the rest of your IoT household and network can be attacked in ways which circumvents whatever gateway security you’ve setup at ISP or router level. And should your lightbulb get patched, that new firmware you download for your microwave oven is corrupted because someone got to their repository and now your oven is compromising your own network. The complexity of policing all these IoT services also increases exponentially.

One current example is the massive DDOS attack which squashed Twitter which used an IoT botnet.

The above example uses corrupted IoT devices to orchestrate an attack outward, but that usage is arbitrary from a security point – your hoover is no longer your friend.


The connectivity is the feature and any security measures decrease connectivity so is at odds with it’s main purpose, which becomes inherent security problem when there’s a plethora of new products and services which compete to be first to market.

The same market forces which govern regular product development, marketing, distribution and the inevitable ambition for hegemony, act on the development of IoT, but since the turnover and innovation cycle is getting ever shorter, and the main feature of IoT devices is their connectivity and user friendliness, security is not a priority and will always be lacking. Especially in the knockoff devices which try to compete with the bigger actors by lowering prices. Look no further than cheap USB chargers that keep catching on fire as an analogy — it’s not that the factories and engineers who crank out these crap chargers are incompetent, it’s just that their priorities don’t include “safety.”

IoT turns our behaviours into data which can be mined without our own interests at heart.

IoT allows for those who would like to leverage a deeper knowledge of us to further their own ends. The data that private and state actors mine to better track our habits and wants becomes more granular and nigh impossible to escape. Even if you live in a faraday cage, most of your friends probably don’t, nor will you be able to escape your own buspass or the facetracking software your store is using.

The brouhaha over surveillance fifteen years ago, when we had demonstrations against Echelon and city-wide video surveillance, seems like ancient history, but the same arguments still apply. Personal sovereignty is an important principle, and abuses which we historically have fought tooth and nail to curb are being implemented as features.


IoT further pushes the idea of a “citizen” as a “consumer” into a “consumer as product”

Today when you’re taking the train you are not a passenger but a customer. You are not a patient at a hospital but a consumer of health services. With the increased focus on identity politics in the social sphere we are not political actors but cheerleaders for our brand of conspicuous political consumption.

Going forward, you are the facilitator of a commercial transaction. You have become the programmed agent, being acted upon by machines with little loving grace but plenty of data points on how best to serve you –using their own definition of “serve” of course. You are become a node through which resources flow.

Of course you are still human, and you can choose to act outside the boundries of IoT and the network, but it takes increasing amount of work to do and as soon as these models are being used for our everyday infrastructure you’re being affected with or without your approval.

A free service is never free. The most apparent cost of “free services” is your attention for advertisements. But the way to think of these ads is not that this is what you put up with in order to use a free app — you as a user are the product that the software company is providing their real customers. (This isn’t new, this is how the newspaper industry has operated for more than a century). The difference with IoT is that the service that you are providing to the IoT company is an inherent feature of their products, and you are not even required to actively participate in providing work for them; you are a node, you are the “thing” in the term “Internet of Things”.

And I can’t for the life of me understand how this is a good thing.

MateuszBehold, for I am node

Biohack conference 4th april, 2016

Bionyfiken put together Swedens first biomaker conference in Stockholm this spring, and of course I went. There was a mix of speakers and topics, and most of them were overviews of organisations rather than actual projects or knowledge-sharing. Overall the mood was more of a meet-n-greet for folks involved in related areas. The title of the conference was “biomaker” rather than “biohacker” which might be more inclusive; even though “hacking” has a better reputation today than ten years ago there’s still a stigma associated with it.

One can’t have everything one would like, but I missed more speculative ideas of what the movement is about – we speak of a “maker movement” and this has over time crystalized into an understaning of what fablabs are and what hacklabs are, and I guess it will get easier with time to see what people are actually doing and use that as a basis for defining the movement. But apart from a brief introduction by one of the hosts, there was very little overlap between the different presenters, outside of the fact that they’re all working with “biological systems” in one way or another.

For me, who’s not coming from a technical background I would have appreciated a “state of biohacking” presentation. Legislation, economics, ambitions, open source or not, culture, etc – are all issues which could have been covered – and I hope they show up more on the next conference.


a few of the participants deal with quantified self – something which overlaps with the selling of pills or books about regiments – and although I don’t have the self discipline to participate in that part of the movement I appreciate that people are doing it, and it will likely provide a trove of data for later scientific analysis provided that there are control studies, that people are rigorous in their logging and that there are protocols which allow for accurate tracking.

Nevertheless, and intersting overlap with quantified self is the grinder community, and it’s overlapping mostly because it’s about modifying ones own body. In the presentation by Jowan Österlund from BioHax International he talked mostly about the technology of today and specifically NFC implants for managing access – but he envisioned that implantables will become more sofisticated and possibly have computing power and be able to internface with our bodies, and not only work as sensors. This would then overlap with the QS group in that they would have to come up with what they’d like these implants to do – at this point we will be more of the cyborgs as we’ve envisioned them in popular fiction, and we’ll have a more direct way of manipulating our bodies; not only through nootropics and other supplements working through the digestive or blood system, but perhaps stimulate a particular set of neurons directly.

Today though, I don’t really see the point of NFC implants beyond the apparent convenience of having your buss pass with you at all times. It ties into the Internet of Things movement, and considering how positive most people – even hacktivists who ought to know better – are to IoT, it’s not an empowering technology but rather one which turns you into a node, a Thing on Internet. Which I can’t for the life of me see as something positive as a whole, considering how the internet works and the obvious risks of exploits and nefarious uses, but also because of the unavoidable feature of being data mined by commercial and state enteties – or even just your neighbour. But that’s a different diatribe.

iGEM was represented by Gustav Edman from Gothenburg who gave the most technical presentation of the conference – unfortunately an overly technical presentation in parts – but that’s what you get from a mixed crowd and different expectations.


I’ve been thinking about possible future scenarios a bit, and since no-one covered those topics in the first session I asked to put up a sign at the unconference after lunch, soliciting peoples’ ideas for “the unintended concequences of biohacking”. I had some interesting conversations, but I didn’t get a single submission. Not very surprising seeing as I was competing with people who had actual information and knowledge to share, and not just a questioneer solicitng speculation. Regardless, I’ll try to follow up if for no other reason than that such a collection of speculations would be an interesting document ten or twenty years down the line, when we could match our predictions with what actually happen. Part of the whole “unintended consequences” thing is that what is unintended is also exceedingly difficult to predict. Also, because I hadn’t prepared any material I was just assuming that poeple understood the question in the same way as I did: The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Another thing: Because the DIY movement is relatively new within biology, there’s little talk of drawbacks or negative consequences (not that “unintended” has to be “bad” mind you) and there’s also of course a defensive posture of people who are working hard on their projects. I guess asking “so, how will your project fuck shit up?” isn’t the best conversation starter. People are more likely to start talking about the obstacles to their success, or what the prerequisites are, rather than what might go wrong – which they haven’t even predicted yet.

The Swedish memory champion – apparently memory sport is a thing? – did a presentation, but I can’t really recall what it was about. I thought it was cute that the company that he was working with (if I recall correctly) were selling over-the-counter nootropics, and proudly diplayed “No GMO’s” on the label. I don’t know if that raised any discussions at the conference, but I guess it ought to. A Pakistani researcher I spoke with was upset that the whole GMO/anti-GMO debate was so polarised in the EU, and that we have Monsanto on one side and enviromentalists on the other, with not enough in common to actually carry on a discussion.


Probably the most rewarding discussion was with Danielle Wilde who is running a university sponsored course in DIY bio in Kolding, Denmark. She teaches students how to set up a wetlab, about protocols, educating citizen scientists and engaging the city of Kolding. Her’s was an interesting presentation and I’d love to be able to participate in something like that. Most of the course material is based on the Waag society curriculum for creating a biolab, and either of those places would be awesome to visit and study at.

There were people presenting trans cranial direct current stimulation – but no hands on presentation that I could find – and others doing simulated electronic body control; letting one person with electrodes on her arm control the arm of a test subject. That one had a live demo but the queue was more than I thought worth it. You can see a demo of it at TED, and it seems to be a straight-forward experiment.

One thing I was hoping to achieve with the conference was to get inspiration enough to continue exploring biohacking in Gothenburg, perchance even to meet someone to cooperate with. The latter didn’t pan out, but the conference was inspiring enought that I’m going to keep at it. At the moment, I’m starting up Laborator: Gothenburgs first biohacklab. Right now it’s just a Mailchimp list and a homepage, but we’ve had a few meetings and I’m setting aside a couple of hours each week to getting it up and running. Bionyfiken took three years from inception to first lab, and I’m hoping that by learning from their experience we can get going faster.

MateuszBiohack conference 4th april, 2016

Fever dreams for pun and profit!

Since Sunday evening I’ve been knocked out by a flu. Temperatures well above 39°C and a resting pulse of 110 bpm when lying down. My collegues at work had taken ill previously, and this flu season seems to be extra ambitious. Haven’t been this sick for this long in a while.

Today is the first day I can string a coherent thought together for more than half a minute so I thought I’d write this up. Apart from sweating like crazy in the night, the most disturbing feature of fevers are the dreams. As long as I’m in them I can’t reason myself out. Usually when we speak of dreams we have a common vocabulary—it was you, but it wasn’t you, y’know?—but I can’t for the life of me tell you what the past few days fever dreams were about.

I did come up with an analogy of how I experience fever dreams though, and it’s the similarity to compulsive behaviour. On a lark I started platespotting when we got a car. The idea is that you need to see the plates in consequitive order, with 001 first, then 002, etc. It’s oddly addictive, and whenever I’m out driving I keep one eye on the road and one on the plates of oncoming traffic. I’ve also become proficient in reading numbers in the rear view mirror.

My analogy to the fever dream is this:

When there’s a lot of oncoming traffic, your eyes are zipping back and forth very rapidly, scanning the plates. What number am I looking for? 26! Is that 26? No! What number? 26! Back up, was the last car 26? No. What number? 26! Is that 26? Part of you dissociate into a stream of compulsion, and at least for me this can leave me with mild nausea and a buzzing head.

Fever dreams remind me of this because of the relentless focus and looping. There is something you need to do. Did you do it? Yes. Ok, did you do it? Yes! There is something you need to do! Didn’t I just do it? You need to do it! I’m doing it again. Did you do it? Yes! Ok, do it! I did! There is something you need to do! I did! Do it!

There’s an overwhelming sense of that this is really important and that you have no choice—sometimes it’s more like events are looping rather than your behaviour, but the repetition and the urgency is the same every time. Even if you drift in and out of sleep you’ll still have this sense of urgency, and a suggestion that understanding is just beyond your grasp. Only way to get rid of these dreams is to medicate and lower your temperature.

I found a few explanations of what might be happening in the brain when we have fever dreams, but I didn’t find many descriptions of the dreams themselves. Higher temperature give higher levels of activity, but why not just increase the dopamine and bliss us out in a calm ocean of fluff instead of these repetetive loops? Is this a pure malfunction or is there an evolutionary benefit to these dreams? I didn’t get any hits for “fever” in the journal Dreaming but I’m sure someone must have looked into it somewhere.

In addition to the fever I’ve been coughing my poor lungs out. Someone has taken a parmesan grater to my throat and occasionally I break whatever lining it is which keeps my blood on the inside. If our bodies are made up of 10 times as many foreign cells as our own, they must consider me a very unfair landlord as I’ve been evicting them profusely and colourfully.

I noticed an amusing thing for a couple of hours when the fever was nearing 40°C the other day: I could hear my eyeballs move! It sounded like fabric rubbing together, or perhaps as when you drag your fingernail quickly across fine cotton. Did my brain twig to the electric activity in the muscles or had the muscles swelled and rubbed against something? There’s a condition called SCDS which causes one to hear ones body, but it’s chronic and carries with it other symptoms. Perhaps it wasn’t anything more than the fever and mucous increasing the density somewhere and allowing for some sounds to conduct which normally wouldn’t. This might be the only silver lining to the lung lining I’ve lost.

To the surprise of absolutely no-one there’s a forum for spotters, albeit not very active:

And in Swedish, there’s a mockumentary as well: Albin the platespotter

MateuszFever dreams for pun and profit!