HSBNE is not a Safe Space

So, first off, the primary intended audience of this post is current/future members of HSBNE aka Hackerspace Brisbane. If you’re wondering why I’m writing this here somewhere open & public, it’s partly because I’m being blocked from posting it in the forums, but also because saying these things only in private has only allowed the bad behaviour to flourish. This censorship is wrong; if you can’t discuss issues then you can’t hope to fix them. It’s even worse when this censoring is being used to hide evidence of wrongdoing so members don’t know what’s really happening at their own space. But that’s the currently acceptable standard at HSBNE, and frankly, I don’t think the average member would agree with what’s actually being enforced if they knew it was happening.

For the newer members who don’t know me, I’m Mike & I’ve been a very active HSBNE member & volunteer for 8 years until recently. I’ve spent nearly a decade helping build HSBNE up as best as I can, and I still want it to succeed as much as possible. It’s a one-of-a-kind place, after all. But I’m deeply concerned that the direction it’s taking will cause the place to implode, and the fact that members aren’t permitted to know the direction it’s taking is incredibly worrying to me. I think it’s fair to say that anyone who volunteers to improve HSBNE does so because they want to make it a better place, however what’s “better” is sometimes a matter of opinion. For instance, wanting to portray HSBNE in the best possible light has been a thing for as long as I can remember, and in general it’s a good thing. Unfortunately, with time that’s morphed at first into hiding structural issues that are wrong without fixing them, into discouraging members from bringing them up, into outright punishing anyone who mentions them. This is an incredibly dangerous anti-pattern, because it not only perpetuates the original problem, it ends up actively encouraging it and the problematic behaviour increases. Bad things happen at all organisations and HSBNE is not some magical exemption; it’s how you deal with them that matters most.

I have been experiencing discrimination and defamation at HSBNE and I’m both being blocked from even telling other members this has occurred and also being actively prevented from having any opportunity to clear my name. This has even gone as low as lying about and attacking me for my disability. Because all my attempts to get these issues resolved internally have failed, I’m forced to take it externally with legal options. As such, I’ve filed a complaint with the Australian Human Rights Commission about the treatment I’ve received at HSBNE. I would like to share more details, but out of respect for the process & the current executive it’s best to avoid publicly discussing active complaints. So I’d ask anyone reading this to withhold your judgement if you have heard rumours about me as I have evidence backing me up that multiple members have been lying about me.

I’d also like to bring attention to sexual assault & sexual harassment happening at HSBNE. Yes, this is clearly against HSBNE’s rules, but that would require the rules to be enforced. A few years ago I was sexually assaulted by another member. I mostly shrugged it off at the time, until I was at a party last year where I mentioned HSBNE and the person I was speaking to said they quit after they were sexually harassed by the same member. Another person at the party overheard us and said they were also sexually harassed at HSBNE, but by a different member, and they said the place has a reputation for providing safe harbour to sexual predators. I messaged some other ex members that I felt left for suspicious reasons, and before I knew it the number was over half a dozen. This appears to have been happening for a period of time and there’s potentially more cases out there too. This is a perfect example of how silence is helping perpetuate this system as those responsible can keep getting away with it. I’ve debated how much information I should share about my case to warn others, but the fact that the systems are so broken at HSBNE that this keeps happening is far more worrying to me than my own incident, so I’ll just say that there are still active HSBNE members who have sexually harassed other members and visitors. I won’t be naming people for my own safety, fearing retribution, but I’ll simply recommend that women, fem presenting and vulnerable people avoid HSBNE, as my experience has shown that no action will be taken by the HSBNE executives to protect victims of these crimes.

In saying all this, I withdraw all past recommendations I’ve given for HSBNE aka Hackerspace Brisbane, particularly if you’re a woman, fem presenting, vulnerable or disabled person. I cannot in good conscience continue to endorse a place that is not a safe space and where the rules are borderline worthless and enforced unequally.

EDIT: Since I originally posted this, I’ve been private messaged by some ex HSBNE members. The number of incidents of sexual harassment I’m aware of has now increased by 3. Tell me with a straight face there isn’t a problem.

EDIT2: In case anyone tried to write off this post as just one member’s ranting, another core member has made a similar blog post, covering the above plus other issues I also agree with but was scared of mentioning myself lest I suffer retaliation for calling them out. Speaking of retaliation, I’ve been given a Schedule Three 3-month ban aka the toughest ban available, for filing a complaint with the Australian Human Rights Commission. This is not an exaggeration or misleading or putting words in their mouth; filing the complaint was the only reason given for the ban. I’m saying this as a warning to any current/future members about what the current executive consider punishable/forbidden behaviour, such as trying to enforce the law when it’s been broken. Also, the rule used to justify this punishment was not brought in through the usual public discussion/vote by membership route, it bypassed all this to be rushed in unilaterally by the current executive under their override powers with just an announcement that it was now in effect, placing the onus entirely on them. I will not be commenting further on this ban as it will be addressed as part of the AHRC proceedings.

Myst Island Cake

Myst Island Cake

On the 7th of November 2020, Cyan Worlds announced the first annual Myst Island Cake Baking Contest, under the #MystIslandCake hashtag. I couldn’t resist having a go… Around 60 hours of work between us later, here’s the end result!

Myst Island Cake Myst Island Cake - front view Myst Island Cake - rear 2 Myst Island Cake - rear 1

We started with planing the design – specifically, how could we make a unique approach to this cake, so it wasn’t just another iteration of Myst island. That’s when I had the idea to show a cross-section of the island to display the subterranean caverns. Meka loved this idea, and with his background in architecture, he was well equipped to visualise the final product.

As a way to take stock of what ingredients are available to make this edible diorama, we took a few trips to different stores to find the best ingredients for sculpting and cake decorating. The grocery store had a decent selection that would have been fine, but the trip to a specialist cake decorating shop had fantastic things such as bronze food paint & powdered food colouring.

Myst Island Cake ingredients

The making process begun with choosing an appropriate scale to make the cake. Using a 3D model of Myst Island, we found a size that would allow Meka to sculpt the smallest models we wanted to include, as well as considering how much fruit cake we can realistically eat (side note: this is Australian-style fruit cake, which is far more edible & tastes far better than its international counterpart). The board is around 600mm by 300mm, or around 2′ by 1′. I then printed out scaled drawings of the plan view of the island for Meka to start sculpting. Being able to consult these wireframe images, as well as measure dimensions straight off the 3D model, was super handy to make sure everything was scaled correctly & in the right place. Sculpting all the individual buildings, trees & artefacts took many days of fiddly work until we had the majority of the chocolate and sugar cake toppers finished.

Myst Island Wireframe - top/aerial/above view Myst Island Wireframe - side view Myst Island Wireframe - front view

Myst Island Cake - Library Myst Island Cake - Mechanical Age gears Myst Island Cake - Planetarium Myst Island Cake - Stoneship Age ship

2 days put from the deadline, the cake sculpting began. A copy of the island plan was made on baking paper, which was used to make approximate placement of the landscape, contours, buildings & the dock. Again I was in charge of scaling the elevations of the landscape, while Meka’s sticky but far steadier hands sliced away at the cake.

Myst Island fruitcake

Once we were happy with the overall shape of the island (taking into consideration the underwater portion of the island that Meka approximated), the cake was generously drenched in rum so that it would stay preserved for weeks. There was also the added bonus that the rum helped pull the crumbling cake together after much cutting & piecing together.

It was now time to put on some top soil. A thin layer of brown fondant was stretched across the fruitcake & massaged into shape. The rock portions of the island were painted with a palate of royal icing in different colours to approximate granite, and a layer of moulding chocolate put on the cake board, ready for the ocean water (a mistake we would soon find out) The tricky job of making the sectional view of the internal chambers took a little planing & creative licence. As many Myst fans may know, the chambers don’t exactly fit in the island faithfully, and to make a clean section, a small amount of artistic license was required.

Myst Island Cake - cutout view

Grass made of crushed digestive biscuits mixed with shredded coconut was applied to the appropriate areas. The buildings, pathways, stairs, ships, pillars & trees were positioned and blended into the landscape, before a dam of packing tape & cardboard was constructed around the cake ready for the sea water. The ocean water was made with agar powder, water, sugar & flavouring, which was cooled to 40’C/105’F before being poured around the cake. The underwater chocolate & the fondant of the island began to dissolve in the agar, even though the jelly was hard. This was not a major problem as the colour stayed in the jelly, and the dissolving fondant dripped slowly, which we continued to mop up.

Myst Island Cake - Selenitic Age rocketship

After removing the jelly mould, the cake was almost done, but there was a blank space on the side where the island was cut off. Meka had a plan for this – literally! He drew out the plan view of the island, as though Atrus was still in the process of writing the island into existence. It was finished with a chocolate version of Atrus’s quill and ink, along with his memorable words.
Myst Island Cake - Quill
Aside from some small amounts of armature wire to hold up things like the trees, everything else in this cake is edible. Most importantly, most of the sculptures are chocolate-based instead of being fondant-based, so it actually tastes good too (eg the quill is entirely white chocolate). And now that it’s finally done, it’s time for us to enjoy some cake after staring at it all week! *nom*
Myst Island Cake - top/aerial/above view

Myst Island Cake - side view

Mad Scientist Knife Switch Extension Cord

Mad Scientist Knife Switch Extension Cord

There’s a running joke amongst my friends that I’m an actual time-travelling mad scientist – mostly because it’s more true than false. So I figured, why not run with it a little and have some fun with it. So that’s what I’ve done here – I’ve restored this old Mad Scientist’s Knife Switch into perfect working order!

Knife Switch 1

A 2x DPDT knife switch, rated for 500V 60A, with arc suppressors

Safety is important – especially when you’re going to have “exposed” bare copper like I have here. In this case, the exposed bare copper is only ever running at 5 Volts, and those +5V connections are used to open/close various relays. You can even lick the bare copper if you wanted without feeling so much as a tingle.

Knife Switch 2

“Pull the Lever, Kronk!”

Fully restored/repaired/running, this knife switch is now sitting around my house as a random extension cord you can use to turn on any appliance that you plug it in with.

DeLorean Door Card Foam Replacement

DeLorean Door Card Foam Replacement

My DeLorean‘s now 39 years old, which means it’s got a long list of “nice to haves” that aren’t critical but they either need some attention or outright replacing. One example is the foam in the door trim panel upholstery – that collapsed into a black powder a long time ago and left the door interiors completely flat, hard, and with no depth or shape to them. So let’s fix that! DeLorean Go offer a Door Card Foam Repair Kit with what you need. Since I’m in Australia I ordered the kit with the two tubes of glue instead of the tin of glue. I personally would’ve found it better to use 3 tubes of glue and I would recommend you buy 3 just in case, but you can definitely make do with just 2 tubes.

DeLorean Door Upholstery Padding Before

DeLorean Door Upholstery Padding Before

As far as jobs go this one is more fiddly than actually tricky. There’s a trick to popping the door trim panels out – have your the window down while you do it and use an upholstery fork tool to pop the fir tree fasteners one at a time. Make sure you completely vacuum out the old foam dust from all the pockets before inserting the new foam. It’s also important to keep the vinyl stretched taut over the backing piece as you work when gluing it on, and also apply the glue to both surfaces and let them dry a little bit before pressing them together. Finally, this is a good time to replace your door’s fir tree fasteners if your old ones have gotten all mangled up over the decades.

The end result should look something like this – the extra curves & shaped definition in the vinyl are subtle, but definitely there and make it look that little bit better! I’ve done my best to take both of these photos from exactly the same position/angle with my camera in the same position with as close natural lighting as I could get to make the comparison easier to see.

DeLorean Door Upholstery Padding After

DeLorean Door Upholstery Padding After