My Brain in 3D: Rendered Videos and Images of My fMRI Scan Data

My brain (c 2007).

My brain (c 2007).

Back in 2007, I made a deal with a friend to participate in his fMRI brain scan study at the University of Liverpool in exchange for a copy of the DICOM data from my scan. He agreed to the trade.

Since then, I occasionally pull my scan data off the shelf and dust off the cobwebs and disk errors, and import it into the DICOM Viewer, OsiriX (e.g., as I did in 2009). With the latest versions, I have had a lot of trouble importing the files as they were given to me into OsiriX. Luckily, I saved the installers for earlier versions including the venerable version 3.5.1, which still runs fine on MacOS X Mavericks and Yosemite.

Using OsiriX’s many features, I created these four videos and an album of images of my 2007 brain. I wonder how it has changed since that time–completing my MA, then PhD, taking a postdoc at Georgia Tech, and now, working at City Tech. Also, I think about the technologies of representation that make it possible for me to see my brain without injury or invasion–OsiriX and unseen software libraries for working with, manipulating, and displaying DICOM data, MacOS X and its technology APIs, my MacBook Pro retina, disk and flash drives, email (how I originally received the scan data), the fMRI machine that I sat in for 30 minutes to an hour, the physical laws behind each technology and the biology of myself, etc. What do you think about when you see my brain represented below?

Final Videos

Draft Video (I had not yet removed all the tissues and bone around the brain)

Rendered Images

https://www.flickr.com/photos/dynamicsubspace/sets/72157647825318882/

Teaching at City Tech, Fall 2014, Syllabi for ENG 1101 and ENG 3771

For my first teaching assignments at City Tech, I received two sections of ENG 1101 English Composition I and one section of ENG 3771 Advanced Career Writing (a professional and technical communication course for students in these majors: Legal Assistant Studies, Communication Design, Electrical Technology, and Telecommunications Engineering Technology). I created syllabi that meet and exceed the outcomes defined for these courses while carefully considering the material conditions of my students in and out of the classroom. You can find copies of my Fall 2014 syllabi here: ellis-jason-eng1101-syllabus and ellis-jason-eng3771-syllabus.

We are entering the fourth week today, so we are picking up momentum and getting good work done. Students in ENG 1101 are working on a brand new take on my “Writing the Brain” assignment, and the students in ENG 3771 are building job application portfolios while getting plenty of time to interact with one another and cooperate on the revision process. With a strong start, engaged students, and stimulating projects, I’m looking forward to what I believe will be a great first semester at City Tech.

Personal Digital Archaeology: Jason’s Icons 1.0, Feb. 7, 1997

I have been spending some time digging through my past online and conducting personal, digital archaeology. While doing this research, I ran across a collection of Macintosh icons that I made back in 1997 and bundled on Feb. 7, 1997. I likely used ResEdit to make the icons (32 x 32 pixels).

You can download the collection in its original HQX/SIT container from here on the Info Mac Archive.

In the archive, I included a Read Me file with my reasoning behind making the icons set. Also, it reminded me of my first email address at Georgia Tech, which was replaced when I returned to complete my studies in 2001. The Read Me file includes this text:

Jason’s Icons v1.0

February 7, 1997

Dear Downloader, These are some icons that I created out of pure desperation to label the folder contents of one of my hard drive partitions. This is how I use them:  After careful consideration I have decided to let other people enjoy the fruit of my labors and perhaps spread a little happiness throughout the world. (Hey, I can dream!) If you do happen to use these icons and have any suggestions for a new set or would just like to say “hi,” please feel free to contact me at my email address listed below.

Sincerely, Jason Woodrow Ellis

gt0567b@prism.gatech.edu

I grouped the icons into these folders (some for reasons lost to me): Cameras, Enjoyment Icons, Internet Metaphor, Office Equipment, Tools of Torture, and Video Equipment.

Jason's Icons: Enjoyment Icons

Jason’s Icons: Enjoyment Icons

Internet Metaphor

Internet Metaphor

Jason's Icons: Office Equipment

Jason’s Icons: Office Equipment

Jason's Icons: Tools of Torture

Jason’s Icons: Tools of Torture

Jason's Icons: Video Equipment

Jason’s Icons: Video Equipment

Jason's Icons: Cameras

Jason’s Icons: Cameras

Personal Digital Archaeology: New Computer Price List.doc, April 17, 2004

Athlon XP 2500-based Computer Build, Spring 2004.

Athlon XP 2500-based Computer Build, Spring 2004.

While looking through old files, I came across a Word document file dated April 17, 2004 and titled “New Computer Price List.doc.” The list is for the materials that went into the PC that I built and used before I upgraded to a Power Macintosh G5 a year later. It’s an interesting artifact of that time–not only of the choices and components available, but also of the computer parts companies no longer around (Monarch and CompUSA). Here’s the list:

CPU                AMD AthlonXP 2500+ Retail                       $89.00             Monarch Computers

Motherboard   MSI NForce2 K7N2-Delta-ILSR D               $118.00           Monarch Computers

RAM              Corsair 1GB XMS3200 CL2 Pro                   $299.99           Microcenter

Hard Drive      Western Digital 160GB Special Edition         $120.00           Sam’s Club

Optical Drive  Sony Combo Drive DVD/CD-RW 52x          $89.99             CompUSA

Video Card      eVGA Geforce FX 5950 Ultra 256mb           $499.00           Microcenter

Case                Antec Lanboy w/ 350watt power supply      $79.99             CompUSA

Power Supply Antec True 480watt (replaced 350watt)        $50.00             Perry (his old PS)

Lighting           Cold Cathode Blue Light 2pk                         $14.99             Microcenter

Lighting           LED Blue spotlight                                         $6.99               Microcenter

Total:                                                                                      $1367.95

- Rebates:                                                                                $90.00

Final Total:                                                                             $1277.95

Science Fiction, LMC3214, Summer 2014: Exploring Cultural Connections Through Haptics and LEGO

The Millennium Falcon circles Tech Tower.

The Millennium Falcon circles Tech Tower.

Before closing out the last class that I would teach at Georgia Tech as a Brittain Fellow, I brought a great big container of LEGO bricks to class for my students to explore and enjoy thinking about science fiction with haptics. As I had done last year, I invited my students to think of something from their experience of science fiction that emblematized what science fiction means to them. Put another way, I asked them to build a model of the thing that first comes to mind when they think of science fiction. It could be a robot, blaster, rocket, cyborg, computer, spaceship, etc. Whatever it was, I wanted them to use the available bricks to build an approximation of the thing, present their model to the class, and explain its provenance. I would add to each presentation of a LEGO MOC (my own creation) with additional SF examples and historical relevances.

The challenge to this assignment was that 2/3 of the class were taking the course remotely online. While I invited students to build something and share it on Twitter, few did or were able to do so before class that day. One online student joined us for the on-campus class, which added one more student to the mix and was much appreciated by me and his peers.

After giving instructions and discussing haptics, I gave the students about 25 minutes to find bricks and build their models.

Collecting LEGO bricks for their MOCs.

Collecting LEGO bricks for their MOCs.

Building their science fiction models with LEGO.

Building their science fiction models with LEGO.

Then, students were invited to come to the front of the class, place their model under the document camera for the benefit of online students, and tell us about their creation and its inspiration to them.

Matthew and his model of the Starship Enterprise NCC-1701-D from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Matthew and his model of the Starship Enterprise NCC-1701-D from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

 

Jarad and his lightsaber from Star Wars.

Jarad and his Jedi lightsaber from Star Wars.

 

Aditya and his moon rover.

Aditya and his moon rover.

 

Lauren and her planetary rover.

Lauren and her planetary rover.

 

Tyler and his TARDIS.

Tyler and his TARDIS.

 

James and his spacecraft.

James and his spacecraft.

 

Peter and his flying car.

Peter and his flying car.

 

Roxanne and her spacecraft.

Roxanne and her spacecraft.

 

James and his Daban Urnud ship from Neal Stephenson's Anathem.

James and his Daban Urnud ship from Neal Stephenson’s Anathem.

 

Sang and his futuristic aircraft.

Sang and his futuristic aircraft.

I was proud of the creations and connections that my students made during this end-of-semester exercise. Despite a number of same types of SF emblems (air/spacecraft), each student assumed a different approach and had different points of origin for their inspiration. Also, no two models were alike. Each one is a expression of the individual using a three-dimensional modeling art and design form–LEGO.

Besides drawing on different kinds and ways of thinking for this exercise, I know from students comments that they appreciated having a creative outlet in the class beyond their analytical final papers, which are creative in other ways (argumentation, research, prose writing, professional formatting/design, etc.).

Some of them choose to keep their models while others let me keep their models to show future students.

LMC3214, Summer 2014 Class Photo.

LMC3214, Summer 2014 Class Photo.

Finally, my Science Fiction class would not have been possible without the technical support of Ted Skirvin, who worked with me to use the affordances of the room with my teaching style while accommodating the needs of online students.

Ted Skirvin of Georgia Tech's Global Learning Center.

Ted Skirvin of Georgia Tech’s Global Learning Center.

 

Minireview: The Reconcilers Graphic Novel Volume 1

The Reconcilers Vol. 1.

The Reconcilers Vol. 1.

While Y and I were sitting for several hours in an airplane–on the ground, I had the pleasure of meeting the writer, actor, and director Erik Jensen. After I mentioned to him that my specific area of training is in Science Fiction, he gave me a graphic novel saying, “here’s some Science Fiction for you.” I was thankful for the gift and thankful for the time on the tarmac to read it!

The graphic novel that he gave me is volume one of The Reconcilers (2010) co-created by R. Emery Bright, Jens Pil Pilegaard, and Jensen. Volume one is written by Jensen and drawn by Shepherd Hendrix. Neal Adams created the cover art.

The narrative takes place in 2165 after the ascendency of religion-like mega-corporations and the gradual establishment of elaborate gladiatorial matches fought by “Reconcilers” to decide disputes between corporate entities. The story  follows Sokor Industries attempting an extra-legal takeover of Hansen Engineering’s claim to the motherlode of exotic, energy-rich “liberty ore.” Hexhammer, Hansen’s miner who discovered the the vein, leads their underdog team against Sokol’s seasoned fighters to keep what they had earned. However, Hexhammer’s past choices threaten his ability to overcome his final confrontation with Sokor’s best Reconciler, “Masakor.”

The megacorporations of Fredrik Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth’s The Space Merchants and William Gibson’s Neuromancer, as does Weyland-Yutani of the Alien film series also, inform The Reconcilers.

The Reconcilers has a lot of interesting material for thinking through the convergence of corporate personhood, entertainment, religion, capital, and rule of law. I believe that it would be informative to research and engaging to students.

 

Second Donation to Georgia Tech Library Archive’s Retrocomputing Lab: Power Macintosh 8500

Me and the Power Macintosh 8500/120 in the Georgia Tech Library Archives.

Me and the Power Macintosh 8500/120 in the Georgia Tech Library Archives.

When I met with Georgia Tech Library Archives’ Department Head Jody Lloyd Thompson and Digital Collections Archivist Wendy Hagenmaier to donate three vintage computers (a Dell Dimension 4100, Apple Performa 550, and Apple iMac) and other computing hardware a week and a half ago, I noticed that they had room for one more computer, so I pitched them the idea of my making another donation to fill the gap between the Performa 550’s 68030 processor and the iMac’s G3 processor:  an Apple Power Macintosh 8500/120. They agreed to accept, so I set about preparing the computer for them.

IMG_5166

My Power Macintosh 8500 was in very good shape, but like many vintage computers with persistent clocks, it needed a new lithium battery.

To replace the Power Macintosh 8500's on-board battery (upper left corner of photo), you have to remove the motherboard.

To replace the Power Macintosh 8500’s on-board battery (upper left corner of photo), you have to remove the motherboard.

I replaced the battery, installed Mac OS 7.5.5, a number of different software titles (including Apple’s Plaintalk Speech Recognition–I threw in a Plaintalk powered microphone, Project X/Hot Sauce, and Cyberdog). I discovered that the plastic inside the case did not age well. The PowerMac 8500 has a lot of plastic components that are held together with flexible tabs or clips. When I applied a small amoung of pressure on the tip of these clips to release them, most of them would break. Luckily, the case ties together very well, so I only had to piece some parts back together with clear tape (the power button/light assembly) and metal duct tape (one drive plate cover on the front of the case). To help dissipate heat, I  added a rear slot fan made by Antec.

I made a video demoing the finalized system, which I’m including embedded below (I apologize for the flicker, but my digital camera doesn’t have enough adjustment features to match the refresh rate on the Apple 14″ Color Display).

In addition to the Power Macintosh 8500, I gave the Archives a box full of software and late-1990s/early-2000s video games for Macintosh. These might help facilitate more connections around campus (Computer Science, Media Studies, and Game Studies).

As I’m leaving soon for City Tech, I believe that we can do more together in our work with vintage computing. I floated the idea of a symposium, conference, or some other kind of connected project. Also, from what little I have learned so far, there’s a lot of investment and interest in computer technology in NYC (and Brooklyn in particular). I am looking forward to making new connections with others studying retrocomputing and New Media. I know that many opportunities await.