August 18

Break the Spy Cameras!

The world is flooded with cameras taking your picture and video recording you every day. Road cameras, Store cameras, WIFI laptop, cellphone, bank, etc. The list goes on. Everywhere you look these days, and many hidden places where you cannot look there are cameras.

And with these insidious cameras are new software technologies to perform facial recognition. This can then be used to link to massive databases of information on you, your browser history, your purchase history, your “criminal” history.

An criminal is in the eye of the beholder. To many of the elitists in government, everyone is a criminal in one way or another. They have seen to that by enacting so many different laws that there is nothing you can do alive OR dead without breaking some of them.

What is a freedom loving individualist to do?

How about not being recognized in the first place?

First lets get a very brief understanding how this technology works. Basically as can be seen from the following diagrams, the software maps a set of points on the face and has algorithms to detect a variety of facial changes as we do such things as eat, laugh, grimace, scowl, etc. Another set of algorithms allows the face to be mapped from any angle. Putting all of these together allows the computer to create a basic “Facial Fingerprint” unique to you.

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Facebook has upped the anti by making every post able to map multiple faces and even map those faces as they change with age.

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This is scary stuff. Not only can retailers and ad people use this to target us to buy their products, but most intrusivly it allows a government with far too much power to infiltrate and basically control our lives.

How can we combat this obvious intrusion into our private lives?  Well a company in Japan is working on an idea – one that those individuals with some basic DIY skills can certainly emulate!

The key is to conceal or inject “new” points into the facial map so that what the computer thinks it is seeing is something completely different.  Short of making a mask of someone else, a la “Mission Impossible” what can be done is to confuse enough of the face so that the computer cannot make the link.  Here is a picture of the shades they are developing

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And Here is the Link: Fooling the Facial Recognition Camera

The key appears to be the ability to reflect white light back towards the camera and at the same time, confuse it about where to place the eye points and the eye-line to nose begin line (see earlier mapping pics). Without this data, all the camera has to go by is the lower nose and mouth lines.

Now, when the software builds this database of your face, what it is doing to create the facial fingerprint is to first determine these various points and then, and this is key, to create a set of “distance lines” between each of the points that represent a dynamic measure based on your current facial response. In other words no matter what your face is “doing” (laughing, crying, shouting, anger, happy, smiling, etc.) the dynamic distances between these lines stay within a specific set of ratios. This set of measures is unique to you so that by knowing all of the points, and all of the ratios of the lines connecting those points, the computer can guess that you are who you are within an astonishing degree of accuracy.

But only if it can get those points and ratios.

If you can devise ways to flummox the software (And I assure you, you can) then this recognition goes out the window.

Ultimately you could just wear a entire face covering bowl with a one-way see through mirrored surface. But then you would attract attention. “Hey look mommy, a manikin is walking down the street!”

These white shades, while rather bulky currently, won’t attract that much attention!

Good Luck out there!

May 4

Steampunk Lightning Detector MARK-II

So I have been building not one, but two new Lightning Detectors similar in some respects the my original “MARK-I” unit.

These use a new circuit from Charles Wenzel, that is somewhat simpler than the original, however does not have all of the neat options that the original possessed (namely the sound, metering, etc.) These detectors however had a more exotic and Steampunk feeling mixed with some “Alchemy” and Ghostly detection capabilities..

Magick, if you will.

Anyway, To the pics and circuitry. I wont bore you with too much text about how the build progressed, it was slow going just like before.

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The completed Alchemical Steampunk Detector.

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The two detectors partially built.

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Frontal view of the completed Detector.

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Side View.

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Close up of the “Ghost Crystal”

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Side View showing Hermetic Symbols of Alchemical Knowledge…

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Winding the Basket Coils.

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The straws make it simple to slide off. Remember there must always be an odd number of winding spikes (nails in this case).

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A little hot glue at the crossover points and the coil slips off in 1 piece. Ready for matte black paint.

Finally, here is the circuit I used for the detector. As mentioned above, it is a bit simpler than the MARK-I, but has less capabilities.

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That is all for now! If you want one of these you can buy it from my Etsy Store unless they are all gone, then you will have to have me build you one – which will take some time I’m afraid….

March 12

Making a Commonplace Book of your own…

Please read my post on what a commonplace book is before you make one, or you will turn into a toad.  Read it here

(Okay you rebel, I like you… besides, I’m not wasting that kind of magickal energy on you…)

There are a couple of ways to create a commonplace book that has the look of a real Victorian leather commonplace that would have been carried by a man or woman of letters (A woman or man who had the desire to further their intellectual capabilities and keep their musings, ideas, and creative juices flowing through the use of such a “rememberal”).  A leather-bound book of the size that would fit in a pocket or purse – large enough sketch and write comfortably, but small enough to keep easily, perhaps of a flexible nature.  You can buy books like this at your local hobby and metaphysical stores, or you can make one.

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I choose to buy an unlined “mini-journal” from my local “Hobby-Lobby” and then customize it to my liking by creating a leather logo and affixing it to the front cover.  Here’s a pic.

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My Commonplace Book.

By the way, for those who are interested, my logo is the Alchemical symbol of the Ourobors combined with the Triquetra, and the triple crescent moon which is actually the Celtic goddess symbol of Brigid in union with the horned god (Cerrunnos). My ancient ancestors would have appreciated it anyway… 🙂

This technique can certainly be used to make yourself a very inexpensive commonplace book, this one costing me about 10 bucks when all was said and done.

-DTM

March 6

The “Commonplace” Book… The true Pensieve.

Okay… it has been a verrrrrrry long time since I have posted.  I could give the usual blather about being so busy, etc – and it would be true, but does anyone really care. No, they don’t.

So onward then.  Today’s topic: The commonplace book and how to make and use one.

The Definition: A Commonplace Book was/is a way to compile knowledge, usually by writing information into books. Such books were essentially scrapbooks filled with items of every kind: medical recipes, quotes, letters, poems, tables of weights and measures, proverbs, prayers, legal formulas. Commonplaces were used by readers, writers, students, and scholars as an aid for remembering useful concepts or facts they had learned. Each commonplace book was unique to its creator’s particular interests. They became significant in Early Modern Europe.

Sounds like the internet, or a note taking feature on your phone.  The difference is that if you drop your commonplace book in the bathtub, you dry it off and move on…not so much with your phone.

The truth is, the commonplace book is a real life thing that collects and stores your memories in a way that actually reflects you and your personality – it is, in a real sense, the pensieve of the Harry Potter Stories.  By reading the commonplace book of a thinking man or woman who may be long dead, you will in fact be transported into their thoughts, time, and ways of thinking. You will be holding in your hands a physical object they in fact once owned, and wrote perhaps things more intimate than anywhere else except within their own minds. If your are sensitive enough, then for the briefest moment you will be them – just like the pensieve of Harry Potter, well… perhaps not quite as magical.

The fact is, when you write with your hand using a pencil or pen on paper… something magical happens that is just not the same as when you “type” it or speak it into a recorder.  When you sketch ideas, while describing the scraps and tidbits of your thoughts, poems, etc. you create something that is more than just a book of notes – you create a part of yourself.

The reason, of course, lies in the way the book is put together – it is not chronological, in fact you may write things on any page at any time. you might stick things in the book like a real scrap book as well (although it is supposed to be portable so you can take it with you, you probably want to put “thin” things in it).  Typically commonplace books use headings and are sectioned, but the fact about them is that they are supposed to represent your own memories.

Susan Wise Bauer (A historian)–in her book The Well-Educated Mind: A guide to the classical education you never had–describes them as “artificial memories,” says this about keeping such a book:

When we sit in front of Plato or Shakespeare or Conrad, “simple reading” isn’t enough. We must learn to fix our minds, to organize our reading so that we are able to retain the skeleton of ideas that pass in front of our eyes….How is this done?  By keeping a journal to organize your thoughts about your reading.  What we write, we remember.  What we summarize in our own words becomes our own.

I could not say that better, so I didn’t. In fact I bold faced stole this from another bloggers article about commonplace books that you can read here.

By the way, when those who practice the magical arts (witches, wiccans, wizards (oh my), sorcerers, etc.) make a commonplace book, it is usually termed a “book of shadows” or perhaps a “grimoire” – albeit a rather unorganized one perhaps…

So here are some pictures of some real commonplace books… then we will discuss ways in which to make our our own.

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September 21

Building the Steampunk Lightning Detector…

The Steam-punk Lightning Detectors that I sell on Etsy (See my Etsy Store badge on the right) were created using a modified form of the lighting detectors found at the TechLib.com, designed by Charles Wenzel.

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The basic circuit is shown above, However I made some changes for the Steam-punk version.

This unit contains about 100 man hours of work to produce the Victorian appearance of age in the stain, the brass, steel, leather, and glass of the detection lamp assembly and wooden base etc.  True working Steam-Punk art is not cheap and there is a good reason – it is hard to build!

But for the real Steam-Punk aficionado looking for a piece that really works, this unit is a must have.  Visit my Etsy store if you are interested. (Special note: This particular unit was sold in just a few weeks after posting, so if you want to order one, just go to the shop and send me a message.  I am currently  as of 03/13/2015 building two more detectors, one under commission, and one that I intend to sell).

Now… onto the build itself.

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The parts laying about before assembly…

Aging and staining the wood for the base took nearly 2 weeks of solid work to get the right look I was going for: A cherry stain that looked like it had been around for sometime. Everything else had to be in period materials from leather in the base of the Cobalt Blue Lamp assembly – the blue glass itself, all connectors and art-worked pieces had to be of brass if at all possible or other metals.

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The Cobalt Blue Detection Lamp Assembly…

The lamp tube is cut from a blue bottle. That took three tries with my expensive bottles… The base is a solid cast brass candle base.The top and ball are from old door-knobs and Victorian curtain assemblies. Threaded brass rod, springs, leather complete the unit.

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The Circuitry before insertion into the base of the Lamp Assembly…

Using “dead-bug” style circuit assembly procedure, (and after verification of the circuit) everything was encased in a wax base to keep parts from moving once assembled into the base. The small black unit is the hidden speaker that is used to announce approaching lightning or, to allow the “Voices of the Aether’s” to speak forth – in other words, if you take this unit to the northern regions when the Aurora Borealis is up, you will hear it’s weird moaning in this speaker.  Or perhaps if you take it to your local cemetery you can hear ghosts there as well… who knows?

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The controls Close-up

The switch allows near and far detection. The control knob changes the Q of the coil for allowing more tight tuning of the strikes.

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The Final Product…

And the final product is a wonder to behold! Again, about 100 man hours of work here!

Below is a video of the Detector in action…The sound you hear is the rain pounding on my castle laboratory, and my evil cat (“Kitty”*) meowing in the background! And Thunder too…

*Actually, Kitty is not evil, she just likes to lay on whatever it is you are working on. I guess that is fairly typical of a cat.