Sunday, 25 April 2010


There's not much to report. Today I went swimming, which was fine. Then Pieter and I had lunch, during the preparations for which I suffered another paralyzation episode, in the midst of fetching something from a cabinet. If it wasn't for Pieter being nearby I would probably have collapsed onto the floor. Now he managed to carry me to the couch. It was kind of silly that I was more worried about the slices of bread I had just prepared and the milk cooling down in the microwave than about the fact that I could barely move anything more than my eyebrows.

Then after I recovered and began eating my lunch I suffered another episode while I was in the midst of chewing. My milk was pretty cold by now. I think that the initial episode got triggered by the interview which was on TV while I was preparing lunch. It was an interview with one of our Dutch politicians, D66's Pechtold, who was telling the journalist how proud he was of this country and how important he considered personal freedom, our healthcare system and all that. It made me feel almost nauseous, plus lonely and frustrated considering my personal experiences.

After lunch I took one of my usual 2-hour naps, from which I woke up feeling a lot better. Aside from a weird, painful sensation on the right side of my head, with touching of the skin being really sensitive and gradually worsening surges of pain in that area. I took some painkillers earlier and the pain has mostly faded now, but the area is still very sensitive.

Emotionally I'm beyond exhausted, though. Clearly it's beginning to have its toll on my body now as well and the lack of a possible solution just makes this situation even more desperate. What if I get stuck in this paralyzed state whole days? What if the symptoms get worse? It all makes one wonder whether it wouldn't be more merciful and humane to just end things right here and now instead of going through the entire process of slowly fading into nothingness? These are some of the questions I have to deal with every day. It's amazing and frightening how one can one moment consider life to be quite acceptable and worth living and desire nothing more than to get the hell out of here the next.

I know I don't want to slowly fade away. Yet when faced with an impossible situation there are only two options: fade or quit. I'm not sure I'm ready yet to quit. It's an impossible situation resulting from another impossible situation, yet at least this one will resolve itself eventually. Even if it's always in death.


Saturday, 24 April 2010

Utopia And Dystopia

In my previous post I referred to the movie 'Idiocracy', a 2006 movie which got linked in an online discussion somewhere, possibly Slashdot, and which I watched together with Pieter a few weeks ago. We are still trying to figure out in how far this movie is or can be true, mostly with respect to the mathematics behind the theory of 'devolution' as proposed by the movie. Does the balance between the smart people (S) and dumb people (D) really remain intact? Considering that we humans have had a few thousands of years of relative civilization and there are still quite a number of smart people running around one could just say that it's the efforts of the smart people which have allowed the dumb to become more vocal, via the internet, TV and such marvels of modern technology.

Pieter proposed a linear increase in the population numbers of S and D, such that S : D = nS : nD. This of course doesn't take into account many other factors affecting population growth and the longevity of individuals. It's a logical suggestion that in the D population individuals will expire before they become capable of reproducing due to less intelligent actions or choices from them, their parents, friends or other individuals from the D population in their environment. These include abandoning a child, severe trauma from a fight, stunts with lethal consequences (re Darwin Award), drugs, and so on. As said many times, stupidity should be lethal, and apparently it kind of is. There may yet be hope for humanity.

During the past two years Pieter has made me watch a number of movies and series he liked, and vice versa. I have for example exposed Pieter to a number of more abstract Japanese anime series, such as Interlude and more recently Karas, the latter being the series I started my fansubbing career with which would eventually lead to the founding of my company, Nyanko. The fun part about these series is that they require your constant attention, refuse to give you easy hints and basically screw with your mind as much as possible. It's fun to see Pieter struggle to keep up with one of these series, though I wish he'd agree to rewatching them some time as the second time around such series are usually a lot easier to grasp.

One series Pieter exposed me to in exchange was Babylon 5, the five seasons, six movies and one (aborted) sequel we finished watching not too long ago. It's a somewhat contradicting series, in that while it was clearly made on a budget, with unknown actors and CGI scenes which looked outdated in the early 90s, the quality behind the underlying script is amazing. It's rare to encounter such a solid piece of writing in relatively mainstream (sci-fi) television. Once one gets over the bad CGI and the occasionally horrific actor, there's a very rich story, one which is unlike much I have seen.

To even further underline how brilliant Babylon 5 is one should watch the sequel afterwards, as it is more in line with what one would expect from a typical US sci-fi series, with great CGI, flat acting, a script typed up by some intern during lunch time and plot holes large enough for a small planet to pass through with room to spare. In a sense this sequel tried to do the imagining part for the viewer, whereas Babylon 5 demanded one to engage one's imagination instead of feeding everything one spoonful at a time.

The final episode of Babylon 5, which is to be watched after the sequel chronologically, actually made me feel like I had come to really know the people in the series, to care for them in some way. During the final scenes I couldn't hold back my tears, which is something quite rare for me. It was a beautiful conclusion to an amazing journey.

Similarly interesting was a series of books I have read the past few weeks. It's a trilogy called 'Finder's Stone' and a semi-sequel called 'Finder's Bane' which is in the Harpers series of the Forgotten Realms collection of books. It was a rare pleasure to read a number of books so well-written and engaging. Very inspiring.

In other news, the increasing lapses in my mental and consequently physical health are quite worrying. Yesterday I had another paralyzation episode which ended with me not being able to move just my hands for what must have been around ten minutes. It got really bloody annoying after the first few minutes. This is now basically a daily occurrence and most decidedly a psychological, stress-induced symptom. There's every indication that it will only get worse as I don't get the medical attention I need, until it can occur virtually everywhere, whether I'm walking, driving a car or bicycle, swimming or in the midst of chewing my food. To me it seems like a really sucky way to get into an accident or even end up dying.

As a final, snarky comment I could of course add that me dying would be a really big relief to all hospitals here in this country as they'd finally be rid of me, but that would just be mean, wouldn't it? I mean, it's not like it's their sworn job to help and cure people whenever possible, is it?


Friday, 23 April 2010

Being Human

Knowing to which species one belongs is the easiest of all, as long before one's birth it's been decided that one will be born a pretty bird, annoying mosquito, a graceful wolf, cute monkey or just a boring old Homo Sapiens. This in itself doesn't mean much, however, as without anything else one is just a pile of cells taking up space. This is where instinct came in early in the evolution of life on this planet.

Instinct is the set of basic behaviourial rules any organism can or will use in its day-to-day existence. It allows one to find the right food, find a suitable mate, procreate and raise offspring. It also allows one to survive for as long as deemed necessary by the process of evolution.

Beyond pure instinct there is something else, something far more complex and interesting. It's what is commonly referred to as 'intelligence', defined as the ability to learn and reason. Many animals possess this trait to some extent, from a crow which will pick a lock by twisting a piece of metal wire into a suitable shape to a chimpanzee which will figure out how to solve the puzzle keeping it from retrieving a banana. It allows animals to use tools for finding and preparing food.

While it's debatable how smart animals like chimpanzees, bonobos, certain types of whales, elephants and others are, there's one advantage we humans have, namely that of having evolved appendages which can be used even more efficiently to manipulate our environment. While a crow can use its beak and claws to twist and move things, and a chimpanzee can grab a rock and use it to crack open a nut's hard shell, they can not display the kind of dexterity we humans can with our hands.

To be fair, humans are a pretty lousy animal. Our sense of sight is terrible, our sense of smell virtually absent, we can not survive colder environments due to the lack of fur, our skeleton is still half-way between that of an upright and four-legged creature and frankly, any half-decent predator will find a human to be an easy snack. It's a bloody miracle we survived this long.

What we humans are good at is manipulating using tools. The earliest humans, long before Homo Sapiens existed, already used stone and wooden tools, which changed from simple tools into complex weapons and devices including bows, spears, arrows, hammers and more. This led to the invention of such marvels as the wheel (except in the Americas, they didn't get the wheel until the Europeans dropped by), advanced shelters (houses) and allowed us to get by at the end of the ice age when the number of big prey suddenly dropped rapidly.

So from hunter-gatherers like pretty much every other animal we had to become farmers, manipulating our environment to sustain us instead of following the prey wherever it went. We invented farming tools, more advanced weapons to defend our farms, then farms turned into villages which turned into towns which became cities many hundreds of years later.

We learned how to construct more and more advanced houses, no longer using straw, wood and mud, but bricks and wooden planks. Houses which were more comfortable and lasted longer. At this point the wildlife was no threat to us any more. We had the means to defend ourselves and were safe in our cities behind the city walls. Next we had to face another problem: ourselves.

With a booming human population and rapidly overcrowding cities plus the firm establishment of 'countries' and smaller divisions therein, skirmishes and full out wars became commonplace, pretty much from the moment the first human settlements were formed up till this very day. While it may seem more rational to discuss the matter of resources like civilized humans, human history is a bloody one indeed with each war being more intensive with more casualties, culminating in the Second World War, still only just over 60 years ago.

It was human ingenuity which got us where we are today, yet it would be foolish to assume that this is an unavoidable process. I would like to draw parallels between certain aspects of human behaviour, instinctive behaviour among other animals and place the theory of 'devolving' as a background to this. Many things we humans consider to be typically 'human' are in fact not so human after all. Even insects wage war (ants, for example) with all the typical elements of conquering, surrender and various types of strategy present. Many animals are familiar with the concept of a mate (or mates) for life, which could be seen as 'love', or just an instinctive response with an apparently evolutionary benefit.

For the background of devolving I would like to use the movie 'Idiocracy' (2006) as an example. In this movie the two main characters find themselves in the future, five hundred years, to be precise. According to the theory of devolution as explained in the beginning of the movie, stupid people breed more offspring, offspring which itself isn't particularly intelligent and goes on to produce even more stupid offspring, whereas more intelligent individuals will postpone getting children or even decide not to have any children at all. This will then ensure that stupid individuals will become the majority, to eventually completely replace the intelligent individuals.

In 'Idiocracy' this is exactly what has happened in 500 years time. There's nobody left smart enough to keep most of the infrastructure running, entertainment has devolved into something as tasteful as cagefights, everybody drinks a Gatorade-like drink and even uses this to water crops with as 'it's got electrolytes' and 'plants crave it'. It is then up to the main characters to get some semblance of normality back into the world by for example using water to water crops with, even though water 'comes out of the toilet'. It's a movie which has to be watched to be appreciated and to draw all the parallels between its fictional world and the world of today.

What makes us human? Our intelligence, our knowledge and what we have done with it to improve all our lives. What doesn't make us human? Our instincts. Any time we surrender to these instincts, by eating lots of fatty junk food, leave school to pursue something 'more fun', enjoy purely carnal pleasures, use drugs and such stimulants, we give up our humanity. Whether one regains all of it afterwards then is the question.

As one of the main characters in Idiocracy put it, there can be a world in which being smart isn't weird. Being smart is good. Learning and understanding is good. Don't feel embarrassed to mention complex subjects or use big words in a discussion. It's okay to feel superior to those who feel that using slang instead of proper English and dressing like a monkey on drugs is okay. It's perfectly normal to feel disgust at the sight of someone with dark splotches of ink beneath his or her overly tanned or fat-covering skin, with or without of bits of metal embedded in various places.

We are human because we have superiour reasoning and tool manipulation skills compared to all other life on earth. We should be proud of this. We should be proud of being human. It's not a crime to be smart. It's what kept us as a species and the species we evolved from alive in the first place.

Be human. Be smart :)


Sunday, 18 April 2010


The past few weeks I have had a few more episodes of sudden partial paralyzation. While a neurological cause has been suggested as a possibility by both my psychotherapist and others, I think it's pretty clear that the underlying cause is emotional, considering my pre-existing condition of PTSD, various other traumas, and the continuous presence of stress, recently increased by medical developments or absence thereof.

Each episode is preceded by a feeling of emotional discomfort, which can last anywhere from a few minutes to days, to express itself in the withdrawal of myself into an 'inner world'. The symptoms differ per episode, probably connected to the depth of withdrawal, and range from the loss of the ability to speak, loss of control of limbs and sometimes the muscles of the torso. Two days ago I lost the ability to speak plus control over my limbs, plus the ability to speak. After a while I was able to speak again and move my right arm, then gradually my left arm and then right followed by the left leg. While paralyzed the affected limb is less sensitive, in the sense that for example Pieter tickled me underneath my left foot during this episode two days ago, an action which would normally cause me to try to retract my foot as I really can't stand tickling there. This time, however, the sensation was more akin to walking on a rough surface and I felt no impulse to retract my foot. Rubbing other parts of the leg felt similarly desensitized.

Yesterday I had another episode in which a similar pattern was followed, later that day I had another brief episode. Before I slip into such an episode I feel intense emotional pain, leading me to believe that this is a protection mechanism which is being triggered, akin to people slipping into a coma to promote the recovery from brain damage.

The cause for these episodes seems quite clear, yet with no resolution in sight I can only imagine that things will get worse.

In other news, a few days ago I got a letter from my lawyer containing the draft version of the name change request to be sent to the judge. During our further communication she mentioned that there will probably be a hearing, meaning that I'll have to appear before the judge. I'll keep my blog updated on any new developments.


Wednesday, 14 April 2010

The Pressure Is Mounting

As usual, first the positive news, namely the interview for the Dutch magazine 'Yes'. The journalist arrived on time, we had a nearly 2-hour long interview and things went well, although I did feel as usual that we kept skipping all over the place. Maybe that's normal practice during interviews or so. It takes quite a bit of energy to keep up with the pace, but I must admit to enjoying giving interviews, even if afterwards I'll feel completely exhausted, slightly miserable and generally just want to sleep for a few hours. What I found interesting with this interview, by the way, was that the journalist admitted that she would be reading the previous magazine articles on me again to see whether she missed anything important. She had also been watching the videos.

The interesting part about this is that I no longer have to tell my story from scratch to everyone, but that I have reached or am reaching the point where I only have to fill in some details, with the general story already being known. At the very least this makes interviews a bit more focused. Related to this was the journalist's story about her mother who, when she told her about this interview with me without mentioning my name, her mother immediately said that she had read a story like that in de Telegraaf not too long ago. I thought it was pretty funny, and of course nice to know that my story isn't just read and forgotten.

Publication date for this magazine article will be the first week of June or July. I'm also not sure yet whether there'll be a photoshoot or that I'll have to provide my own photos. I hope I get a bit more certainty on both points soon.

Now, time for some less rose-coloured news. Brace yourselves.

Okay, it isn't that bad, just me stressing out about the large amount of work I have ahead of me, with lots of programming, modelling, texture-mapping and animating to do on the ECD game, plus even more programming on the Lilium simulator. At this point I'm scaling things back a bit, trying to focus on one task at a time, as I noticed the past few days that I'm getting totally overwhelmed again, resulting in me doing little useful work and more switching between tasks. I now limit msyself to a maximum of two tasks a day, one in the morning and one during the afternoon. Hopefully this will keep me from suffering a burn-out or such.

Last night for example was quite terrible. I went to bed at around 11 PM, woke up at close to 2 AM, drenched in sweat, without recalling any kind of nightmare or something similar. I quickly fell asleep again, only to wake up one hour later, in a quite embarrassing and painful state, namely with an erection which seems to have been there for a while already, as it felt very painful. After many painful minutes it finally subsided, only to be replaced by a feeling of nausea, a tummy ache and headache. After a while of trying to sleep anyway and failing badly I went upstairs to nag Pieter. On my way upstairs I noticed that my legs felt quite rubbery and once I made it into Pieter's bedroom I pretty much collapsed on his bed.

Though I assumed I would get no more sleep that night, I still managed to sleep in short naps, probably due to the comforting presence of Pieter. I really hope tonight I won't have to go through the same experience again. I much prefer falling asleep and waking up only when it's appropriate and feeling refreshed, not having the sensation of being forced to survive the night until the dawn finally brings a bit of salvation.

One thing which I think was pretty entertaining was my talk with a Jehova witness, last Monday and today as well. It's both scary and fascinating to explore the mind of someone who absolutely believes in something which is simply put completely irrational. It's like they say: the difference between genius and insanity is very small. In the case of a genius the person will notice where something derails, with insanity there's no such precaution and the individual will happily jump after the derailed train of thought into the abyss of blind faith and absense of logic.

As an aside, when it comes to religion I do not denounce myself by trying to group myself with mundane labels such as 'theist', 'atheist' or 'agnostic'. Scientifically there's no point in lowering oneself to that level. Religions are interesting from a historical and social perspective to me, but no religion will ever directly affect my life, the point being that any religion or essentially belief system is merely an attempt to fill in certain blanks in our knowledge of the universe with made-up content, much the same way we can see shapes in clouds, or the Virgin Mary on a slice of toast. It's a human craving, or instinct to humanize the world around us by assigning emotions, will and desires to both living and non-living objects. To see a sentient being in the universe itself is a logical extension of this. QED :)

The short version is that the question of whether there is or isn't a god or gods is silly as long as one doesn't scientifically define what a 'god' is. A supernatural definition by default means that it's not scientific and thus not 'real' in the sense that it can be tested and verified. Realizing and accepting this would make one's life a lot easier and less frustrating when encountering the rationally less gifted among us.

Finally I would like to end on a note of bleak despair, with the news, or more non-news that the UMCG hospital hasn't given a (useful) response to my latest request for help. I guess having this body I was born with means that I have no choice but to live in the knowledge that it's normal to have my existence denied and that being socially isolated as a result should be seen as a blessing, not a curse. Also, medical science is woefully overrated and it's a good thing only things with a clear ROI are being researched any more instead of silly things, like adding to the general body of medical knowledge. Nobody ever got better from researching new abnormalities instead of prescribing more pills.


Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Stuffs And Bits

Allow me to start off with some positive news, namely that of my interview next week for the Dutch Yes magazine, which had previously been cancelled, a cancellation which got cancelled today due to the previous issue of a 'similar' article having been 'solved'. Got to love internal politics. Originally the interview was supposed to be on the 30th of March, so basically it got delayed by two weeks. It feels good that this contact is on again.

Yesterday I had a second appointment with my lawyer regarding the official name and gender change, the issue being that while a name change shouldn't be any problem considering my situation, a gender change would require solid medical proof and support that I am intersexual, at which point Article 24 can be invoked, which unlike Article 28 is aimed at intersexual people. This means that Pieter sent an email to the UMCG to see whether they're prepared to assist in this. With some luck the gender change can be done this year as well.

Somewhat of an issue is that the judge would really like to know the same things I wish to know about my own body, namely whether or not I have a vagina or similar, and whether there is further anything unusual, specifically a mixture of male/female characteristics about my body. It requires little explanation that when ignoring the genitals my body is that of a female, the issue is more that this needs to be backed up by a doctor or two, accompanied by as much other evidence of my intersexuality as possible. This may be quite an ordeal, still.

Emotionally I'm pretty much dead. I have had a few pretty serious episodes again during which I either collapsed emotionally, or retreated into myself to the point that I couldn't move my arms, legs or even talk for ten minutes or more. What often triggers this is exposure to sexuality and relationships, be it in the form of text, spoken form, or pictures. Whereas for the average person naked pictures of attractive people evokes feelings of lust and such, I instead feel a sick sensation in my stomach, a rapidly coming up headache and a general feeling of wanting to run away, curl up and cry out my eyes. There are many moments when I loathe and despise the 'normal' people around me, including my friends who don't seem to have any of the issues I am having.

I just can't get over the treatment I have received all those years. I ask some simple medical questions and yet nobody understands and can or wants to help me. How do you think that makes me feel inside? Would it make me feel normal, accepted or even sane? At this point it feels like I'm just pleading for my sanity, that I'm not making things up and that my desire to kill any psychologist I'm left alone with for more than a minute is a direct result from my treatment by such people, not because I'm mentally unstable. If anything the treatment I have received the past few years is indicative of mental torture. At any rate now things at the UMCG seem to hinge on whether or not they can treat me not as a transsexual but as an intersexual person. This means forgetting about that retarded transsexual protocol, talks with psychologists and just getting down to real science instead of hand waving.

In other news, work-wise things are going pretty well. I got the welfare extension until September, so I won't have to worry about my income until that time. Progress on the ECD game is proceeding well, even if it still seems like a lot of work. By the end of next week the dust should have somewhat cleared on this, though and maybe we can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I have also resumed development on the Lilium FPGA/ASIC simulator. With a few days more work I should have the first prototype ready for debugging and hopefully soon after that benchmarking, also against the solution of the competition. I have set up a dedicated system for this purpose, making my room resemble even more a server room. I hope to have the benchmark results come in at around 10% of the competing simulator, as that would mean that a few basic tweaks would get my simulator just as fast since this first prototype is hopelessly unoptimized. Anyway, that's enough of making the competition nervous ;)

I must say that I'm really enjoying doing some real, honest-to-god C++ programming again, especially with such a fun project as a heavily multi-threaded, asynchronous application where one typo will make the entire thing blow up in one's face. There's nothing I loathe more than boring projects. If it doesn't make my brains hurt thinking of solutions to problems and questions I encounter, it's not worth working on :)

On a sidenote, what I notice is that I'm at the moment pretty much sliding back into the pattern of 6 years ago when I was still heavily withdrawn into myself. Back then I'd be working on fun, challenging projects virtually all day, with nary a thought of emotional matters. I did feel the desires of the flesh at times, but mostly felt annoyed by it, considering it no more useful than the need to scratch an itch. Beyond that there were only intellectual pursuits, with me avoiding anything related to emotional matters, or my own identity.

With everything other than those intellectual pursuits being pretty much a complete disappointment over the past years it has led part of me to believe that it absolutely doesn't serve any purpose and that I'm best of as how I used to be, a cold, unfeeling, logical machine. It wouldn't matter whether I'm human or not, whether I might be male, female or intersexual. I wouldn't have to worry about friendships other than purely platonic, intellectual relations.

The world would also be a cold, colour-less place. I will not forget being able to experience smells and the full range of sounds again after having had this blocked with a mental blockade for over a decade. Yet at the same time I do not feel like I can get to like the world of humans. They're like how I used to be, only worse. I could never hurt anyone or ignore the needs of someone as doing so would be irrational in my eyes. If anything I have become more cold in that respect. Maybe exposure to other humans does that to one.

It'd be nice I could just know what in the name of the nineteen hells I'm seeing when I look in the mirror. I'm absolutely sick, emotionally and rationally, from the sheer incompetence, ignorance and cold attitude of medical 'specialists'.