The buying of more books than one can read is nothing less than the soul reaching towards infinity

My sweetie figmentj is in Portland for a visit. Because I am a mean and evil person whose sole goal is to make everyone fall in love with the Pacific Northwest, I introduced her to Powell’s Books.

Powell’s Books is a bookstore, in the sense that the Great Pyramid of Cheops is a pile of stones, or the Taj Mahal is a collection of assorted bits of marble. It is the soaring pinnacle of bookstores, a temple of the printed word so magnificent as to make grown men weep. Pilgrims have been lost in its sacred halls for years.

We didn’t have years (more’s the pity), so she got only the quick, two-hour overview. Afterward, there was tea in the store’s coffee shop.

Sex for Science! Chapter 4: Accidental Misadventures

Sex for Science! Chapter 0
Sex for Science! Chapter 1
Sex for Science! Interlude
Sex for Science! Chapter 2
Sex for Science! Chapter 3
Sex for Science! Chapter 4

The morning after our experimentation, the sun rose bright and early in a Seattle sky.

I, however, did not. I slept like a brick until just before checkout. I was so determined to sleep, in fact, that I’m told I totally slept right through random kinky sex happening in the bed not three feet from mine. I’ve always been a bit rubbish in the morning.

Once we had packed everything in the car and checked out, it was off to Portland again…at least, that was the plan. Life sometimes has a way of interfering with one’s plans, though. As it turned out, Life, that tempting and mysterious mistress of temptation, tempted us with a couple of interesting and mysterious tidbits along the way, and so it turned out to take rather longer to get back home than we’d expected.

Many of the Portland test subjects who’d participated in the experiment headed back on their own. We, by which I mean zaiah, the pair of Australians, and I, packed ourselves into the car and headed south along the interstate, unaware of the distractions awaiting us on the drive.

The first distraction was a strange series of steel structures flanking Interstate 5, a bit less than halfway home.

It was entirely too strange to pass up, so we exited the interstate and drove around on some a series of narrow, twisty roads, all alike, until we’d wormed our way back to the place we’d seen.

Apparently, there’s some sort of land-use thing going on there right now.

Curiosity piqued, we (by which I mean half of the pair of Australians and I) figured there was nothing for it but to hop the fence and investigate.

Apparently, according to a quick cell phone Google search, the thing is Gospodor’s Monument, built by oil millionaire Dominic Gospodor, who died in 2010. The monument is supposed to honor Mother Theresa, Native Americans, and Holocaust victims, with minor bits paying respects to Jonas Salk and Susan B. Anthony.

That bit of trespass done, we piled back into the car and headed south once more. Just past the town of Castle Rock, which as near as I can tell has neither a castle nor a rock, we saw a decrepit, falling-down house on the side of the road, right up against the interstate. And once again, there was nothing for it but to pull off the freeway and investigate.

Horror movies start this way, I’m told.

We stayed here for quite a while taking pictures. Well, I stayed here for quite a while taking pictures, while zaiah and our Australian pair mostly humored me.

Click here to see a lot more pics!

Just a quick reminder…

In the interests of helping you, my gentle readers, take the bite out of last April’s tax day, the special on Onyx registration is still valid. But hurry! It expires at the end of the month.

Take $6.00 off the price of a registered copy of my sex game Onyx. And if you scored a tax refund this year, well, this is a good time to give the gift of sex!

Use the coupon code omgtax2011 in the shopping cart when you check out to get your tax relief. If you’re not in the United States and your tax day falls on some other part of the year, well, you can benefit from my own tax woes.

Sex for Science! Chapter 3: It’s All About the Protocol

Sex for Science! Chapter 0
Sex for Science! Chapter 1
Sex for Science! Interlude
Sex for Science! Chapter 2
Sex for Science! Chapter 3
Sex for Science! Chapter 4

Our accommodations and my partner in Science’s socks properly admired, it was time for business. Err, science. The business of science. And, um, stuff.

The motel did, amongst the amenities we didn’t need (like the bullet hole), provide the amenities that we did–namely, a bed, a door, and, once the office staff had got ’round to realizing the room was occupied, electricity.

The door was problematic. It had a fist-sized hole in it, which one does not normally expect to see in doors; but it did not have a doorknob or latch, which one normally does.

Fortunately, this wasn’t the front door, but rather the door between the suite’s living room and bedroom. The bedroom did come equipped with a bed–two of them, in fact. And, unlike a certain bed in a certain room atop a curtain turret in a certain castle in the south of France, the beds in this room seemed reasonably solid and unlikely to collapse at the slightest jouncing.

Which was good, as there is a possibility that the sudden and unexpected collapse of a bed might alter a subject’s brainwave activity, resulting in erroneous data that might be difficult to interpret.

My mad scientist partner and I checked the structural integrity of the bed, to help ensure first and foremost the validity of the data we planned to collect and also, as a helpful side benefit, the safety of our experimental subjects. When one is doing mad science, safety is job…well, safety is something one considers.

She had brought a photographer with her, so while the photographer started to set up we talked experimental protocol. If you’re doing anything for Science, including sex, you can’t just sit down and get right to it; you need to establish a methodology that helps to control for confounding factors and that has a reasonable shot at providing a clear answer to a specific question.

This is the bit that a lot of people get wrong when they try to understand the world around them. Take, for example, the popular old saw “you have to hit rock bottom before you can change.” What does ‘rock bottom’ mean, anyway? Having things go bad is often a catalyst for change, sure…but if one person loses a job and changes his behavior, another person loses a relationship and changes a behavior, and a third person loses his house and family and changes a behavior, which one has hit ‘rock bottom,’ whatever that is? Until you start losing limbs, you always have further down you can go. The concept of ‘rock bottom’ is poorly defined, just because the old saying sounds somehow better that way.

But I digress.

Our objective for this particular experiment was to see whether or not the Neurosky chip could detect any pattern of brainwave activity that was typical for sexual arousal but different from other states not related to arousal. To that end, she worked out a protocol that involved taking a set of baseline readings from each person while reading silently, meditating, and reciting a memory. That done, we would then record for fifteen minutes while each victim subject’s partner sexually stimulated that person. At the end of each session, there were exit questions involving asking the test subject for a subjective assessment of level of arousal and level of nervousness (to help control for whether or not nervousness was what the EEG was recording). During all this, a note-taker would be timing the events and recording anything that could present an anomaly on the EEG, as well as observations of each subject’s behavior.

My partner in science brought one of her partners along–the mutual friend who’d introduced the two of us on Twitter and made the whole thing happen. He brought a netbook to record data and a really nifty necklace with a microphone and a bunch of LEDs that would glow and change according to the ambient sound. That bit became interesting a little later on, as it turns out.

Photo gear (for the subjects willing to be photographed), netbook, modified Mattel Mindflex, and Arduino in pace, we were ready to start.

I’ll skip over the next few hours, as it was for the most part nothing but people putting on the MindFlex, doing a bit of reading and meditating and stuff, and then lying still and being sexually stimulated in various ways. I would hate to bore you with the details. Such details are the stuff of scientific research, but when described in black and white, they tend toward the drab and tedious: “Subject number three spread her legs while her partner slowly kissed his way down her body, until at three minutes and sixteen seconds reaching her clitoris, at which point the subject began to moan and…” You get the idea. Pretty dry stuff, right?

There are a few minor points that do bear mentioning, though. The striped socks did come into play again at one point, when the photographer got this rather awesome shot:

The second was the interesting way in which the necklace I mentioned previously would react when my fellow mad scientist was screaming, which was, in my estimation, pretty damn nifty.

The third, as I mentioned in an earlier post, is that the English language has no word to describe the experience of watching a pierced, tattoed woman you’ve only just met have a huge, screaming orgasm, then pull off the electrodes for the EEG machine, roll over, and start talking about sex-based differences in brain activation during sexual arousal. Dear God.

Now, at this point I have a confession to make, which, Dear Readers, I am trusting not to impact too severely your opinion of your humble scribe. I may lose some of my street cred as a veteran, seasoned pervert, but in the interests of fulldisclosure (for Science!) there is a confession I feel I must make.

I had not, up until this point in my life, actually had an orgasm in front of people I didn’t know personally. Oh, sure, I’d been to sex parties and played in public dungeons; I mean, really, who hasn’t? But until that afternoon in that seedy motel in the industrial part of Seattle, I’d not gone that one last inch (so to speak).

That all changed, though, and opened the way to a repeat performance, of a sort, in the dungeon at Frolicon some months later…but more about that at a later time.

I was rigged up, the baseline measurements were made, the timer was started, zaiah started doing things to me, and I in fact did have some incredible screaming orgasms of my own.

Four of them, in fact. I was right on the edge of the fifth when the fifteen-minute mark rolled by, and was left shaking and frustrated right on the edge. Much, I might add, to the delight of the onlookers, who seemed perhaps less than fully engaged in sympathy for my plight.

Experiment finally over, we parted ways. The Seattle folks went back to wherever Seattle folks go when they aren’t in run-down motel suites doing impromptu brain research about sex, and the rest of us headed out to dinner.

The dinner turned into a bit of a scientific enterprise itself, during which we attempted to establish a set of parameters by which we could decide whether key lime pie was a superior dessert to New York cheesecake…since, y’know, we were in the mood for Science and all. And, as it turned out, key lime pie is indeed a superior dessert. This is the sort of surprising result that one sometimes discovers when exploring the often counterintuitive ways of the physical world.

We only shocked the server once, with a passing reference to Eiffel Towering (the sex act, not the act of visiting the French landmark). That done, it was back to the motel suite, where I fell into a deep slumber and, I’m told, missed some more sexual hijinks of some sort or another.

On the way home the next day, we made a couple of interesting discoveries, which I will detail in the next chapter.

Sex for Science! Chapter 2: Orgasms and Striped Socks

Sex for Science! Chapter 0
Sex for Science! Chapter 1
Sex for Science! Interlude
Sex for Science! Chapter 2
Sex for Science! Chapter 3
Sex for Science! Chapter 4

Apparently, I have a thing for striped socks.

I’ve never realized this before. I don’t know if it’s a new thing, this thing for striped socks, or if it’s just been lurking there in some far corner of my brain, latent, awaiting the day when the whims of fashion would free it from its dark, lonely cerebral cage.

Once lapis-lazuli had departed back for San Francisco, with its cold and its fog and its hypothetical approach to traffic control, we started getting serious about doing some brain scans for Science. My fellow mad scientist who’d contacted me on Twitter and I began proposing dates and experimental protocols, and I started casting out feelers (as one is wont to do) for some victims experimental volunteers willing to be rigged up to an EEG and sexually stimulated for Science.

One of the places I inserted a feeler happened to be one of the local poly groups, because hey, we all know that polyamorous people are easy to talk into being experimental subjects, right? It kinda goes with the territory. Once you’ve cast monogamy to the wind, it’s a long and slippery downhill slide, and the next thing you know, you’re in some seedy motel in Seattle being hooked up to experimental equipment and–

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

We picked a date, and I made an announcement at one of the poly groups I attend about searching for volunteers for a bit of kinky mad science. A new couple, recent imports from Australia, had decided to attend that particular meeting, and they both signed up with enthusiasm.

I like folks who’re not only not put off by that sort of thing, but are willing to say “Sure! I’d love to head off to a different city with a bunch of folks I’ve only just met and engage in sex acts while being monitored by brain-scanning equipment!”

When the appointed day arrived, zaiah and I set out to pick up our Aussie volunteer lab rats and head off toward Seattle.

We had previously reserved a suite in a motel in downtown Seattle, carefully chosen for its location just blocks from where the EEG machine we were intending to use was stored. The EEG in question had recently been purchased by one of zaiah‘s sweeties and transported to a space in Seattle’s industrial district, and as it was large and cumbersome and heavy and quite delicate, we didn’t want to move it very far.

As it turned out, that wasn’t an issue, though again I’m getting ahead of myself.

What we didn’t realize, when we reserved the suite, was that it was in The Worst Motel In Seattle. And I say that with confidence, even having not personally visited every motel in Seattle, simply because it would be impossible for any motel to be worse without actually being under active NATO artillery bombardment.

The Web site, with its carefully retouched photos, promised us a stove and refrigerator in our suite. What it didn’t mention is that the stove would have had its burners and most of its guts stolen by previous tenants, nor that the refrigerator would not actually work. When we arrived, there was no power to the room; the office switched on the power about five minutes after we checked in.

The Web site also didn’t tell us about the mural.

Dear sweet Jesus on a pogo stick, the mural. It would have been considered tacky by 1977 standards, and that’s no lie.

The suite also featured such amenities, testifying to a careful attention to detail overlooked by more pedestrian sleazy motels, as a fist-sized hole in the door separating the front room from the bedroom, and a bullet hole in one of the windows:

The only thing the motel staff didn’t think to provide us with that might have completed the experience was a sniper on the rooftop across the alley.

Setting up for the experiment itself turned out to be a bit problematic. I brought volunteers and lab jackets, but unfortunately, the EEG itself had, upon inspection, turned out to have been damaged when it was transported to the place where it was being stored. My erstwhile mad scientist partner had spent the entire night attempting to repair it, only to discover that the programming manual for it had somehow gone AWOL as well.

All was not lost, however. It just so happened that with an Arduino and a toy MindFlex game, it’s possible to rig up a crude but still effective (at least for my purposes) EEG. The MindFlex toy uses a Neurosky chip, which seemed fitting, as the experiment had gone full circle and come home to roost, or something like that. The Arduino/MindFlex combination is pretty close to what I intended to use for a brainwave-controlled sex toy, so while it was less than perfectly ideal to my fellow mad scientist, it was ideal for my own nefarious purposes.

At least the nefarious purposes involving sex toys and EEGs. I have other nefarious purposes, at least one of which involves commandeering an alien armada of space battleships…but I digress.

Technical difficulty resolved, I finally met my partner in mad science in the flesh for the first time:

I paused long enough to admire her fabulous striped socks (about which more later) and she paused long enough to admire our fabulous motel suite, and we were ready to start with the Science.

I’m still not quite sure which was more fun, being the experimenter or being one of the lab rats volunteers. But that will have to wait for the next chapter, which is the good bit and has kinky sex in it.

Sex for Science! Interlude: Snogging and such

Sex for Science! Chapter 0
Sex for Science! Chapter 1
Sex for Science! Interlude
Sex for Science! Chapter 2
Sex for Science! Chapter 3
Sex for Science! Chapter 4

With the trip to MacWorld far behind and the seedy motel suite in Seattle still some distance ahead, I turned my focus to the notion of a brainwave-controlled sex toy with a singleminded determination that I set aside only temporarily when lapis-lazuli suggested that she might be able to make a trip up to Portland to visit me.

Okay, that last sentence is a lie. I don’t approach anything with singleminded determination; I usually have at least three things going on my mental plate at any one time, and even those can often be derailed by–oh, look, potato chips!

Ahem. Sorry, where was I?

Oh, yes. Singleminded determination. I focused a part of my attention on the notion that it might be possible to make a sex toy work by brainwaves, in a sort of “Hmm, I should look into this more!” kind of way. I exchanged a few emails with the person who knew someone I knew on Twitter, and we both sorta thought “Hey, maybe this idea has potential,” and that’s where it sat when lapis-lazuli said “Hey, I really liked meeting you in San Francisco; how ’bout if I come up for a visit?”

To which I said “Gee, that would be swell!” and off she went.

lapis-lazuli writes fiction. Sometimes, she writes sexually explicit fiction. She also has a wonderful sexy reading voice, so it came to pass that on a particularly interesting evening when she was up visiting, she started reading one of her published stories to me. Then she started doing…err, other things while I continued reading the story myself.

And it was good. Oh, yes, it was good. The story, too.

There came, however, a moment in the story in which one passing character made an offhand remark to another passing character, and for some reason, I thought of the lady who says “But I don’t like spam!” in the Monty Python Spam skit. And read the line out loud that way. I definitely think that she should do the same thing if she is ever called upon to read that particular story for an event of some sort, because who doesn’t like a MOnty Python reference embedded in their pr0n?

One of the many things I love about Portland is Science Pub, hosted frequently by the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, and more specifically by a friend of mine upon whom I’ve been harboring a mad crush for quite some time.

Science Pub is an awesome idea. Invite speakers on a wide range of science-related topics, get an audience of a few hundred into a bar, drink beer (or not, if you’re me–never could stand the stuff), and geek out. It’s hard to describe in mere words how much win and awesome it is.

As it turned out, the Science Pub while lapis-lazuli was in town was on the subject of music and brain development. And as it also turned out, lapis-lazuli‘s college background is in music theory and neurobiology. Put those things together, and it turned into quite an epic win.

Well, except for the bit where we left the pub and discovered that the car battery was dead. But, y’know, you have to break a few eggs if you want to make an omelette. Or, err, something.

The next day, there were pictures.

All this served to do two things: first, to distract me for a while from the fate that was still barreling toward me like a truck, in the form of a meeting with destiny in a seedy motel in the heart of Seattle’s industrial squalor, and second, to illustrate once against he dangers of meeting up with strange people on the Internet. You can never quite tell when they might bust out with a Monty Python voice while reading the porn you’ve just published in an anthology of erotica about casual encounters.

The Mathematics of Sex Toys, Revisited

Quite some time ago, I wrote a post about the Most Annoying Sex Toy Ever, a hypothetical wearable vibrator that would run in an irregular pattern that the wearer could never get used to, but which also would not get the wearer off.

Lately I’ve been playing with an Arduino programmable board, and I’ve come one step closer to achieving that goal! This is a prototype of an annoying vibrator that’s intended to frustrate the user but not get the user off. I’ll post more about it later, but for now here’s a teaser.

Interestingly, someone else who’s read my previous post has written an Arduino program to do sine wave mixing the way I talked about in my earlier post, though the Arduino software I’ve written works a bit differently. The software I’ve written delays for a random time between 15 seconds and a minute and a half, then randomly chooses a pattern to run the vibe in. Each pattern has random variability baked into it, so whoever is wearing it can’t identify the pattern when it starts.

Once the prototype is tested and made more portable (it doesn’t have to be tethered to the laptop to work, just to upload the software to the Arduino board), I’ll probably be posting schematics and software. Stay tuned!

I really, really love being me.