Thursday, April 30, 2009

Long Distance Relationships...

It's really hard sometimes, to be in love with someone who lives a million miles away. There are just so many times that I so desperately want to be with her and she with me. It helps a lot that we have email, text messages and long conversations on the phone. We are quite capable of really making up for being so far apart, by talking for hours and falling more deeply in love. Knowing the logistics are so very difficult - it will be months at best, before we're able to see each other in person. But it's ok, because Juniper is a truly remarkable and brilliant women, who is worth the difficulty and who remarkably finds me worth it too.

Today and this evening however, we have both been in somewhat introspective moods (mine wouldn't have anything to do with listening to my Joni Mitchell station on Pandora - nope, nope, nope). And I think this is the hardest it's been, because all I wanted to do was be with her, enjoying a companionable quiet. And while it felt good to lay there in my bed on the phone with her, enjoying the quiet and knowing that she was there at the other end, loving me the way I love her - it just wasn't the same as actually being there with her, enjoying the quiet together.

I am ultimately rather new to this feeling. I always assumed that how I had loved before was my capacity and that was all there was. There was that and my love for my boys and nothing more was possible or even plausible. But now I love someone so much, that even my aching to be with her - actual pain - feels better than anything I have ever felt for another person in this context.

I love loving, being in love and being loved like this. Accepted with my flaws, my brokenness and fears - loved by someone so very intelligent and so impassioned by a desire to understand the world around her. Someone as insatiably curious as I am...

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Ya Think (bloody damned morons)

I needed a little break from my final paper, so I thought I would take the moment to share this little nugget of wisdom I found in The Cognitive Therapy of Substance Abuse. Keeping in mind that this is in the context of the first session with a new client:

For example, the cognitive therapist would be ill-advised to speak in the following manner:

"We're going to be examining your thinking processes, to understand the kinds of cognitive distortions that lead you to engage in maladaptive behaviors such as drug abuse and antisocial behaviors."
I'm sorry, but if you are honestly stupid enough that it would ever cross your mind that saying anything at all like this to any patient would be reasonable, you really need to find a career that doesn't involve cognitive therapy of any kind. And if you are stupid enough that you would consider saying that to an addict you would actually like to see get help, you really need to consider a career that doesn't put you in a position to be a risk to others - like pressing buttons that go bing.

What irritates me about this example, is not simply that it's so completely absurd, it's that there are a host of more subtle mistakes that a therapist could make that aren't shown. For example, I could see a therapist saying the following, especially if said therapist was new to this and rather nervous:

"So John, what I'd like to do is explain a little bit about how cognitive therapy. I'd like you to feel free to ask me any questions you might have about this type of treatment, so don't be shy. We're going to try to understand how you see things, how you feel about your life, who you are - about using drugs. This is important, because it can give me a good idea of where your coming from and where things went wrong. This will also start to help you understand yourself a little better and help you turn your life around in a direction you would be more satisfied with."

Do you see the problem ? It's subtle and could actually turn out to be language use that the client will be comfortable with. But there is no way that the therapist can know that in the very first conversation with a client - especially a client who is a substance abuser. Even when they were the one to initiate contact, drug abusers are notoriously reticent about help seeking. Quite often the first session is going to be the only session - even if the therapist does everything right. So this first session is walking in eggshells - you will not get a second chance to fix any mistakes you make.

"...where things went wrong." is the problem statement. Yes, they are there because something is very wrong and presumably things went wrong somewhere. Odds are pretty damned good that if they're in your office, they even know that things went wrong somewhere and assume that you know this too. The problem is that verbalizing this smacks of judgment. The client may well decide you believe that they are wrong as a person. Even if they don't go to that extreme, it is likely to both anger them and flare up their shame response. One simple word like that can easily cut the chances that the client will return in half.

I don't want to give the impression that this book is horrible. Actually I think it does a fairly admirable job, though I disagree rather strongly with some of the base assumptions of the authors. It is a book intended to be supplemental material for the practicing cognitive therapist who is getting involved in treating substance abusers and addicts. Ultimately, this is really my problem with the aforementioned scenario - while the example they give should be absolutely obvious to anyone who was able to become an accredited cognitive therapist, the example I provide might not be as obvious. And while making a "wrong" statement to any patient should be avoided in initial sessions (with most clients, at all), it is especially critical when dealing with addicts. If an example of what not to say under the circumstances were necessary, it would make far more sense to use one that is more subtle - a reminder to reinforce what the cognitive therapist has already learned, probably repeatedly, over the years they've spent in school.

As a complete aside, I will note that under pressure and feeling rather crappy, I have managed to smoke only three cigarettes thus far today. Although my Joni Mitchell station on Pandora is helping an awful lot. That and my e-cig...

Friday, April 24, 2009

Wherein DuWayne Rants About the #$@&ing Drug Laws

Before I start, I would really like to recommend that you take a listen to Gabriela Montero. I recently discovered her whilst listening to one of my Pandora stations and her playing made me weep for the beauty and the passion with which she throws herself into her variations and compositions. Gabriela is a wholly remarkable pianist, a child prodigy who has matured into brilliant and nuanced composer. And she is also great stress relief...

I have had a not so grand day today. It started well enough, though not as productively as I might have wished. And I had a fantastic visit with the doctor, where we discussed my meds and how the new regimen has been working out. We decided to double my dose of Wellbutrin, from 100mg in the morning to 100mg in the morning and another at lunch (something I was going to do a couple weeks ago, but chose to wait because he wanted to see me to add the extra dose). I was actually feeling pretty damned good when I left the doctor's office - almost three and I had only smoked two cigarettes all day.

How quickly things can change. Today I discovered just how fragile a thing, this thing that is my calm and collect self.


The fucking war on drugs put me on the verge of a nervous fucking breakdown today. Though I was heading that way when I went to get my scripts filled in the first place.

My fucking Wellbutrin costs eighty-six fucking dollars as a fucking generic. Eighty-six dollars!!! And the version I am taking is not available much cheaper anywhere - including mail order. I very nearly started crying in the fucking store when they told me that. I'm working on getting help with my scripts through the state, but the wheels turn slowly. My folks are helping out some, but that just stresses me out more, because I don't want to be a fucking burden on them at thirty-two years old. I was frustrated and angry and decided to hold off on that one to see if I could find to cheaper elsewhere, or if there might be another option for finding Bupropion for less, but in the same dose as I've been taking.

No such luck, this time around.

So I decide to get it filled and owe my parents even more. Fucking yeah for me!!! I headed back to Wal-Mart and handed the women at the window the script, having completely forgotten that I had been told earlier (when I dropped off the others) that they were out of that one anyways. The women at the window punched it all into the computer and told me it would be about twenty minutes, so I sat down to wait. After about half an hour, the women who had originally taken my scripts came out to remind me that they were out of that particular dosage of Wellbutrin. Mind you, the women who had taken the script had seen me sitting there several times, while helping other fucking customers - never once occurred to her to let me know that I couldn't get my fucking drug. Nor did they consider just fucking calling me to tell me - if they hadn't noticed (they are usually really good about calling for stuff like that and they weren't very busy).

What the fuck does this have to do with the war in drugs, you ask?

I had a check with me, written for the total cost of all three of my scripts. And even though another Wal-Mart has the Welbutrin, I couldn't pay for it at the one I was in. So I had to transfer the other two to the other fucking pharmacy as well. The only problem being that Clonidine and Ritalin are controlled fucking substances and they can't be called in. They can't be faxed over and apparently, they can't even get them ready in anticipation of the fucking paper script being brought in. Nor can they be refilled - every month, my doctor has to write another script for me.

Of course I had wasted nearly half an hour sitting in fucking Wal-Mart before I became aware that I would have to go to another store - about half an hour across town. And not only would I have to run over there to get them, I would have to fucking wait there while they filled my other two scripts - because we have the most ridiculous fucking drug laws ever. Mind you, it was close to dinner time and a friend of mine was joining us. I was about fifteen minutes late when it was all over with. (Though I did get a text from the most beautiful and brilliant women in the world, who just seems to know when a text from her is going to take the edge off of stressful situations - thanks Juniper)

My problems today and with getting more than thirty days worth of my meds at a time, are far from the only egregious intrusion that our draconian drug laws have thrust into medicine. Because of course, there is also the war on pain management to be considered. You know, the war in which not only patients who doctor shop and fraudulently acquire multiple scripts for the same pain killers (often times to sell them) got to jail, but even doctors who appear to be over prescribing and patients who are engaged in a good faith pain management regimen with their (only) prescribing doctor.

I am so fucking tired of this paternalistic fucking bullshit! This has gotten beyond fucking ridiculous - went beyond that point fucking years ago. The war on drugs interferes with the ability of doctors to care for patients, therapists to freely help drug addicts and substance abusers and patients to have reasonably simple and rather less costly access to their medications.

Fuck You drug warriors - Every MotherFucking One of You!!!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Just a Quick Report on the E-Cig - which will probably ger expanded later

I have a lot to do and need to lay down for a few minutes, because of a headache. But I wanted to let those of you who are interested in the E-Cig, that I have not gotten through three actual cigarettes yet today. When I get a chance later, I am going to write a more detailed post about the ins and outs of the one that I have and put together a early product review. I will also be putting a button on my sidebar, to send you to the site where you can purchase one and actually help me out in the process, by providing me with a small percentage of the sale-price. This isn't likely to make me a fortune, mostly I am hoping to defray the costs to myself. I am also going to try to convince them to send me a couple of their other models, just to try them out and offer reviews of other models - though I can provide some information based on the experiences of others.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Prosecute the Officials Who Ordered Torture, not the Operatives Who Followed Their Orders

There has been a lot of discussion about the Obama administrations release of the torture memos and the decision not to prosecute the operatives who actually engaged in torture. The two that I've been involved in the most, is this one at Greg Laden's blog and this one at Dispatches.

Let me be very clear before I continue, as many folks seem to be making assumptions about my position that couldn't be further from the truth.

1) I do not condone torture - at all.
2) I do not want to leave operatives with the notion that they should commit acts of torture in the future, if they are ordered to.
3) I absolutely want to see the DOJ investigate and I want to see officials that made the legal recommendations, the officials who counseled the Bush administration and those who gave the orders to torture go to prison.
The bottom line however (to borrow a phrase from Comrade Physio Prof), is that we do not live in a world that resembles a fucking care-bear picnic. While I absolutely do not want to see our intelligence operatives engaging in torture, I also don't want them to be put into a position where they will have to argue the law with officials who tell them to do something and make it clear to them that it is legal for them to do so. Intelligence operatives have to do a lot of things that are morally and legally dubious - and sometimes we need them to do those things.

Indeed, sometimes we need them to do things that are pretty clearly illegal - something that should be prosecuted in court and for which they should then be pardoned, unless it is found that they committed an egregious abuse that was either unnecessary or was outside their purview of protecting national security. I basically would consider the court proceedings an additional level of oversight that requires operatives to justify their actions and provide an accounting of why they felt it was necessary to operate outside the law.

I believe in the rule of law, but also recognize that there may arise occasions when the law would prevent intelligence operatives from preventing clear and present dangers to our national security, to the security of our allies, or the security of civilian populations of our enemies. Breaking the law should not be common, nor should actions that do be taken lightly. But pretending that there are never situations where breaking the law is not justified is complete and utter fucking bullshit.

Most importantly though, there are a lot of situations where the law is not so explicit and arguments could be made either way. Not to mention actions that while not necessarily illegal, would tax the conscience of most people. We need to make it clear to the operatives who are doing their damnedest to keep us safe, that they can follow orders given, without fear that we will turn around and decide that since the lawyers and officials who gave those orders were wrong, we must prosecute the operatives who followed those orders.

Now it's easy for you and me to say that this wasn't the least bit unclear. It's really easy to assume that the interrogators who engaged in acts of torture are just sadistic fucking bastards who get off on hurting people - and you know, I wouldn't argue that some of them probably qualify. But we aren't those people, people who we have trained to think and act differently than you or I would act. We push these people to the very limits and sometimes encourage them to go beyond, because what they do - what we need them to do sometimes requires skirting that line.

Rather than prosecuting them, we need to take steps to ensure that this never happens again. First and foremost, we need to make it clear to the people who gave the orders, the architects of this torture, that what they did was a crime against humanity. That if they are found guilty, they will go to prison. In effect, we need to ensure that the folks in power in the future, will never give these sorts of orders again. That they can and will be prosecuted if it is found that they ordered operatives to commit criminal acts. Second, we need to create fundamental interrogation guidelines that make it clear where the line is and make it clear that if this line is crossed, the operative who does will be prosecuted and punished, to the full extent of the law.

It is not easy to simply say that these folks should be let off of this. I am pretty certain that there are operatives who are sadistic fucks who wanted to do this. But I think that it's far more important to avoid sending operatives the message that they cannot simply trust the folks giving the orders, not to fuck them and leave them open to prosecution.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

First Report on the E-Cigarette - And Seeking Contributors

Yes, I really am writing about it just six hours since I arrived home to find my e-cig had arrived - there's a very good reason. By this point in the evening, I am usually going on my - oh probably fourth by now - maybe my fifth (the time is going by quickly). I usually smoke about half a cigarette at a time.

I have smoked a few hits off my second cigarette since I got home. That would be, well, considerably less than usual and I just got the damned thing.

It is definitely different, kind of like a cross between smoking a light cigarette and hitting a slightly clogged pinch-hitter (cannabis smoking implement (yup, I won't define alexythemia, but a pinch hitter...)). This thing really rules, even if it is not all that much like actually smoking - which I suspect I will find to be a good thing in the future - similar enough to help me off the smokes, different enough that I think it will be easier to get off of.

The vaporizing liquid, is flavoring, propylene glycol, water and, of course, nicotine. The nicotine is actually synthesized from tobacco, but (they claim) that what is left is just nicotine. But even assuming that some of the other elements are left, it's vaporized, not smoked.

While I definitely think it is too soon to say for sure how it will work for me, I am now comfortable with the idea of advertising it on my personal blog. I have heard enough people talk this particular one up now, that I am very confident that I can provide you with an honest assessment of how it's working for me and tell you how it's worked out for the folks I've talked to about it. Any questions are totally welcome at any point.

I will get a small amount from sales, five percent for most, ten percent with less expensive, maintenance supplies (disposable parts, mostly cartridges). I just want to disclose that, before anyone accuses me of being a shill - because frankly I am really excited thus far. But keep in mind that it's not much in the general scheme and if I sell anything at all, it will likely only defray a fraction of what I am spending on it (which is a lot less than smokes).

I will not however, be advertising this on the Quitters Blog. I did not start that blog to sell stuff, rather it's a side-effect of deciding to quit smoking. I am interested in starting a community there, not make a profit.

So we are up and running over there, but I am needing your help - whether you smoke or not, work in that field or not. If you have a blog, please link to Quitters Blog and let your readers know that we are looking for people to contribute. And if you have the urge to throw it in, I am also interested in hearing from anyone with other substance abuse/addiction problems, who would be interested in joining a similar venture - on another collective project. I have been considering ways to do this for a while and am realizing that I am simply not likely to have time to start a full on forum, any time soon.

If anyone would be interested, it is not a problem to remain entirely anonymous and post. I will be happy to offer anonamail-in posting - whatever it takes to make folks comfortable writing about their experience. I would prefer, as much as possible to just make people team members - and folks can still hide their blogger profile, while front page posting as a team member. I just don't have a lot of time to put into it, though I will certainly post on all the blogs (mostly cross-posts from this blog)....

I got my E-Cigarette!!! - Calling For Smokers Ex and those who want to be be Ex...

Addendum - I am looking for contributors - I am setting up a quitters blog, see below. No longer considering it - doing it. Email me or leave a comment.

And it's up over here - please leave a comment there or email me if you are interested in contributing...

Just came in this afternoon, while I was at school and it rocks. It will take some getting used to, but I think this is definitely going to make a huge difference in my run to quit smoking.

And while I'm on the topic, a visit from one of my favorite commenters at Dispatches, Abby Normal, got me thinking. Abby posted a really kick-ass comment, describing his experience with quitting smoking. Would there be any interest from my ex-smoking readers, as well as those who are trying to or who are planning on quitting, in a blog project for you (and me) to post about our experience? I would love to throw up another blog around here and allow you all to post - with team posting privileges for those who want them.

I would also be really happy to add medical, sciencey types and addiction counselors to the mix, should they wish to contribute posts as well.

I think that this could be of immense benefit to all of us, especially those of us who are still smoking. If there is interest and it works out, I would love to add blogs for other addiction issues - or possibly a forum. Though if the latter was developed, it would require volunteers to moderate. And keep in mind that I really can't devote much time to making this go, which is partly why I would just prefer to give those who want it, team posting privileges. This would not be something to abuse and there would have to be some rules - number one being to keep it topical. But I think this could be pretty rocking big fun, as well as built in support for us quitters.

Please let me know what you think.

And actually, I should also note that though I've gotten out of the habit since I resurrected this blog, I am all about having guest posters. I will be somewhat selective about what I post and will admit that my reasons may be pretty arbitrary, but I am all about hearing from you, if you want to post. I do recommend that you ask me before you write the post, so you don't end up writing something that I don't really want - but I really do like the idea of getting some other voices up around here and outside of comments. Finally, please don't assume that because you disagree with me on something, that I won't be willing to post your views - there are some things that I just won't, but that is not a common restriction for me.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Great Argument For Religious Freedom and Gay Marriage

I am really glad that my brother posted this - both because I am busy and don't really have time to post anything substantive and because this is one of the most concise arguments supporting gay marriage I have ever heard.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

In Which DuWayne Discusses HisTherapy

This last Friday, was my last session with the therapist I have been seeing. Her internship is up and I am probably going to be out of therapy until June.

I am very grateful for the experience that I had in eleven sessions with Theresa and can state categorically, that she is one hell of a therapist who will serve her clients well. I was rather reticent in the beginning and she admitted yesterday, that she was as well - for some of the same reasons. For my part, I was concerned about her lack of experience and the fact that she's a women. She was concerned because she believes that I am more intelligent than her and that I would find therapy more effective with a male therapist.

I have been trying to figure out how to explain the methods used in my therapy with Theresa and keep running into something of a wall with it. The reason is that the therapy was by needs, rather unconventional - utilizing a great many tools that are not generally used together. The diversity of the problems that I need to deal with make any singular approach simply impossible.

The first thing we did was to define the issues I am dealing with and my goals. This was excruciating, to put it mildly. We discussed a great many, very difficult issues in a very short time and explored issues that I was mostly unaware of. The biggest issues were figuring out where the cognitive problems end and the neurochemical issues begin and helping me recognize my emotions. The former is not something that can be accomplished with absolute accuracy. What we were really trying to do is help define broadly, the parameters of my neurochemical issues. The latter was and is, far more of a problem. When I first walked in the door, I knew that I needed to learn to deal with my emotions more effectively - instead of just shoving them away, into the recesses of my mind. What I understand now, is that I have very little grasp of my emotions.

On top of all this, we were also dealing with the nuts and bolts of managing the situation with my family and my reaction to it. This was in part, the hardest aspect of therapy to deal with - mainly because it really was what caused the realization that I have very little grasp of my emotions. It was also the hardest, because the situation with my family has been so absolutely insane.

In working out the parameters of my neurological issues and their interface with my cognitive issues, Theresa really probed my understanding of managing cognitive issues. Not necessarily in direct context to my own experience, but in a more generalized context. She then probed for how I've been dealing with a lot of my problems - what has helped and what has not. Finally, we delved into my experience as a child - not so much what was happening around me (though that was explored some as well) but what was happening in my head. Through this we were able to make some reasonable assumptions about where this therapy should be focused and also where my discussion with my doctor should be focused.

Exploring my problems with emotion was considerably more complicated. This is also where Theresa's ability as a therapist really shined. It's not that I was purposefully skirting the issue, it was just very hard to bring me to the place that I could actually see what's been going on. She had to ask a lot of questions, sometimes pretty much the same question - restated after we had managed to work out another point. She had a very good grasp of what was going on, but due to a need for me to figure it out myself, we had to get there the hard way.

Like any effective therapy, it was entirely based on asking the right questions and through that leading me to figure out what the hell is going on. When the problems being discussed are as diverse as my own, a baseline difficult task becomes huge issue. And to make it far more difficult for Theresa, I came into therapy with a few beliefs about who and what I am, that turned out to be entirely wrong. I truly believed that I had a pretty solid grasp on my emotions - I just didn't think that I was really capable of many of the emotional responses to various situations, that I saw in most of the people around me. While it the context in which it was said is important, alexithymia came up and I wasn't the one who mentioned it. She was clear that she didn't think this was a perfect descriptive, only that based on our discussions, she saw some alexithymic tendencies in me and the way that I manage my emotions.

One of the very few times she actually pointed something out to me directly, was when I came in and told her that the short-form assessment I had taken at the doctor's office had claimed that I suffer depression. This was certainly news to me and my surprise at this was pretty obvious. She then pointed out that when I was very young, I had desperately wanted to die - that when I got over wanting to die, I then moved to simply not caring if I died. Then she asked me how I felt about dying now, to which I responded that I don't want to. It finally sunk in when she asked me why I no longer wanted to die, which I explained was because of the boys...Not because I had somewhere developed a desire to live, but because I have children who need a dad. Just to make sure, she was clear that most people, even people who aren't really afraid to die, want to live and would really rather put off death - excepting those who get particularly old, or who suffer some debilitating disease or injury.

No, I'm really not a moron. This does however segue well into another important focus of my therapy - my own little world, the world that I built for myself when I was really young and wanted to die so badly. The world that I built as a form of self-medicating. The world that I thought was no longer a factor, after an early version of it shattered when I was thrown out of my church so many years ago. The world that has continued to be a huge aspect of my life since I was nine or ten, though it has seen a great deal of remodeling over the years.

A great deal of my life is spent inside my head. There is a rich and diverse universe to experience there, where I will never run out of ideas to explore, sculptures of words and music to explore and occasionally attempt to express on the outside and completely abstract mindscapes to ride, like a helicopter ride over the most beautiful landscapes this planet of ours has to offer. I have always been pretty capable of occupying myself for extended periods of time, with minimal external stimuli (I basically did just that when I spent a little more than a month in the woods once, completely isolated from human contact).

A side effect of spending this time in my head, has been my presumption of self-awareness and my ability to compartmentalize. Combined with my ability to feel at all, I firmly believed that I really understood my emotions and what I was capable of. I just believed that I wasn't really suited to feeling the way a lot of other people seem to manage.

I am not setting a course to vacate my head though. It is an important aspect of who and what I am. I am working on spending less time there and deconstructing some of the more prohibitive aspects of my own little world. Mostly, I am trying to learn who and what I really am - learn how to feel what I am really feeling and embrace it in all it's glory, horror, pain and ecstasy. I am trying to learn what DuWayne is actually capable of feeling. Thankfully, outside the parameters of therapy, I have found the most remarkable help with that.

One of the earliest discussions that came up, one that's pretty relevant, was about my belief that I am incapable of feeling romantic love, the same way most people do. I believed that I am incapable of loving a women the way women should be loved. I explained that the reason I had been so keen on my children's mom, is because I thought she was pretty much the same. I have since discovered I am very, very wrong. And while there are issues to iron out, Juniper is all about working it out together and loving me, in spite of my rather fucked problems with feeling, which she is aware of.

My therapist was excited when I initially told her about Juniper and was positively thrilled when I told her that I had told Juniper I love her. And while there are definite logistical issues that complicate our relationship, it has it's advantages for a person who is as broken as I am - offering a chance to explore feeling and understanding it, without the pressure of my lover being with me most of the time. At the same time, we both get the support that can only come from someone who loves you so much that it hurts - and both of us need that support.

I am far from done with therapy. I doubt that I will ever not be in therapy, though the focus and needs will change with time and context. I am a firm believer in those who work as psychotherapists should always be seeing a therapist for their own sake. And I am going through a hell of a run with school that is only going to be more challenging - not to mention the situation with my kids is not going to get easier any time soon. I need the help maintaining, above and beyond learning how to be not broken. But I am definitely in a much better place than I was when I first walked through the door and sat down with Theresa to talk.

And I have a supporter and teacher who provides me with something that no amount of therapy could begin to challenge. A remarkable, brilliant woman who accepts my love and beyond reason loves me as desperately as I do her.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Help Please...

I am hoping that someone out there can send me articles. If you have access to either the journal of Promotion and Education or the journal of Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity, or both, please drop me an email...

Thank you all so much for the help and support.

Got them, again - thanks everyone who emailed.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

In Which DuWayne Discusses Quitting Smoking

I would like to state before you read further, that I discuss e-cigarettes in this post, as a potential aid to quitting smoking. I want to be very clear that there is little to no evidence supporting the safety or efficacy of e-cigs as a smoking cessation tool. While it is reasonable to assume that these are safer than smoking (they are basically nicotine vaporizers), it should not be assumed that they are safe. I look at it as a harm reduction technique for quitting smoking, not as a safe alternative to regular cigarettes.

I have tried several times over the years, yet the best I've managed is a couple months. And even then, I broke down five or six times and had a smoke. I just don't have the luxury of putting it off any longer - the price has gone way beyond my ability to afford it, my body needs me to quit and my children need me to quit.

Before the first (when the federal tax went into affect) I stocked up on about a months supply of tobacco and decided that when that was gone, I am quitting. One of the reasons I discussed the medications I am currently taking, was that the Clonidine and Welbutrin, aside from being found effective for both bipolar and ADHD, are also useful for quitting smoking. Welbutrin is good for smoking specifically, while Clonidine is good for treating the symptoms of withdrawal from heroin, (possibly) alcohol and tobacco. But with all of that, I am still rather nervous about quitting.

My smoking addiction is far more than just nicotine craving, more even than habit. There are some fairly deep seated issues involved with my smoking that have made it extremely difficult for me to even consider quitting. And honestly, I really love smoking - in much the same way that some people love fine beers, great whiskey or excellent coffees (all of which I am fond of). Combined, this just makes it very hard for me to quit - yet quit I must.

So I am arming myself with tools that I am hopeful will make it easier for me to quit and quit successfully. Now I already mentioned the meds, which are not really for quitting smoking, but the smoking cessation properties of which I definitely considered when I discussed them with my doctor. I am also discussing smoking and why I smoke with my therapist. Finally, I just ordered something that I am very hopeful will get me the rest of the way. Already vetted by a couple of people at school and a few folks I am in email contact with, I bought at E-cigarette.

The E-cigarette, is basically a nicotine vaporizer that is shaped like and hits like a regular cigarette. It even tastes a lot like a cigarette, though according to the four people I have discussed it with, it definitely isn't exactly the same. And it does come in several flavors, though I am not the least interested in trying any but the tobacco flavor - at least for now.

I bought one of the cheapest models, found here. This same model is available with only five cartridges, for about eight dollars less or can be bought with even more cartridges - the cartridges of course becoming cheaper the more you buy. I also bought a bottle of the liquid that goes into the cartridges, to see how well that would work out and to get some variety within the tobacco flavors. I am really looking forward to trying this out, as all four of the people I know who've gotten one are really pleased with it and have been very rapidly weening off of actual cigarettes. One of them switched entirely from actual cigarettes, as soon as he got it and while he occasionally wants a real one, seems to be managing well enough.

I am also looking forward to utilizing this product as a step-down method for quitting nicotine as well. The cartridges and liquid comes in different strengths, including nicotine free. As well, they advertise an herbal formula that purports to help reduce the nicotine craving.

I will definitely be writing about slowing down and quitting smoking, as I make progress. I will also be writing about the E-cigarette specifically, as I am hoping that it will be as effective for me, as it seems to be for the folks I know who already have one. Regardless of how it works for me, by many accounts (there are forums) this seems to be a very effective tool for a great many people.

I would note however, that there is little to no evidence as to the safety or efficacy of E-Cigs. On the other hand, they vaporize a mixture of nicotine, glycerin and flavoring, rather than burning actual tobacco, which alone is rife with chemicals and to which more chemicals are often added.

I will also email some of the medi-bloggers I know and see if I can get them to weigh in on the e-cigs.

First Baptist Church of Jacksonville Florida: Snakes and Vipers

Please pass this along. I just don't have the time to really go into all that is wrong with this situation, but I would love to see more folks post about this and show FBC JAX that attempts to suppress dissent will lead to a greater dissemination of that dissent. And though I am no longer a Christian, I still believe that it's important to strike a blow against those who misuse the authority they are granted, such as it is, as leaders of churches.

Thomas Rich, a member of FBC, was disturbed by the actions of one Mac Brunson, when he became the senior pastor of FBC. Seeing that the complaints lodged by him and other members of the church ignored, he started a blog to provide a platform from which to express the legitimate concerns of himself and other members of the church.

This situation took a very dangerous turn towards the end of last year, when Detective Robert Hinson of the Jacksonville sheriff's department and member of Brunson's security detail, opened an official investigation to discern Rich's identity and ultimately to quell dissent. Hinson, with the support of his superiors in the department, obtained a warrant from the state attorney's office to force google to reveal the identity of the previously anonymous Rich. Though the investigation turned up nothing illegal and though Rich was never contacted about the investigation, Hinson then revealed to church authorities that Rich was in fact the dissenting blogger.

Rich and his wife, longtime members of FBC JAX, have now been kicked out of the church and there is an official no trespassing order against them. FBC also did their best to ensure that Rich and his family wouldn't be welcome in other Jacksonville churches. Moreover, the church board and the deacon's counsel have passed a resolution to ensure they can quickly and efficiently quell any future dissent against the FBC power structure (see video in the above link).

While I am no longer a man of Faith, I fully understand just how difficult this must be for Rich and his family. Being booted out of one's church family can be and often is very painful - a pain I am all to aware of. And beyond the direct impact on the Rich family, this story has very frightening implications for all of us. Yet another situation where police authority has been abused, in an attempt to quell dissent - this time in the name of a church. I have yet to hear back from Thomas Rich, having only just emailed him, but I have little doubt that he would object to a short letter of support (email at his blog).

I also think it would be appropriate to write the FBC JAX, to voice your distaste for their tactics and to let them know that by their actions, they will be known - that because they chose to act in this manner, the criticisms leveled by Rich will be spread much further than they ever would have. And comments can be sent to the Jacksonville sheriff's department, via this email form - or by phoning them through this link. If you do use the email form, be sure to use the drop menu at the top of the form and use the label general comments. And the State Attorney's office can be contacted at or (904) 630-2400.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

My Brain Not on Drugs...(I'm in love with a geek)

Yesterday was a rough day on many levels, but also an awesome one.

My wake-up call either didn't come through or the ringer on the room phone is too weak. I woke up late, so eldest and I had to rush rather more than I was wanting to and it cut into the time I had, to meet with his therapist (all of which worked out fine). I was rather frazzled moments after getting up - not a good start.

But even as I realized we were late getting up, I noted there was a text on my phone (I couldn't actually see the time, because of my phone explaining this). I almost didn't even look at it, because I have never actually gotten a text since I changed to a local MI number. I am so glad that I did - simple as it was, it made my day much better and also made me realize something.

It was a "good luck" text from the women I have most definitely fallen in love with. Logistics of the relationship are complicated, but I just don't care. She is so perfect that I ache for her - with her flaws and neurosis and belief that she is any less sexy first thing in the morning...That text just made it impossible for me to question it, wonder at it, or avoid it. And even better, she didn't check her email all day, so she didn't see the email I sent her just before I headed out, before I called her last night to let her know I was home. I got to tell her, rather than having her find it in her email - but she also has it in email.

So onto the rest of yesterday - not depth on the overall sitution - some of which I will write about soon, some that I won't.

I didn't take much ritalin over the weekend. I took two half tabs a day, instead of three and a half, to four tabs, like I usually do.

After dropping eldest off at school and meeting with his therapist, touring the school, setting up a regular time to talk to the therapist and setting up a time to call his psychiatrist, I rushed back to the room and packed up stuff, emailed my love and tried to take care of eldest's mp3 player - add new music and get the old off, while saving some that he still wanted (which failed - I have to try to rescue what's on it and reformat). I then needed to stop back by his mom's and drop off his stuff.

I got everything packed up and picked up most of the colossal mess. Youngest managed to vomit on the spare blanket and there was also a cracker incident (not a desecration of the eucharist, they're not quite that heathen) which was spread across a fair amount of the floor. All in all, I felt it would be unreasonable not to leave a decent tip for housekeeping - but I only had four bucks and though the vomit situation probably warranted at least a twenty, ten was all I could afford. But to do even that, I needed to run to an ATM.

I got the tip taken care of and did one last sweep of the room - found a stash of jelly-beans and a couple of cars that had been squirreled away by youngest and threw them in with the rest of the boy's things and hit the road. This is where the absent minded baseline that is my brain comes into play.

I was nearly to KY, before I noticed that all the stuff I was supposed to drop off at their mom's, was still in the van. More than an hour on the road and I had to head back to drop it off.

Like I said, I'll have more to share later, but I really need to head for class. I just wanted to share my moron moment and, did I mention? I've totally fallen in love with the most wonderful, absolutely stupendously beautiful women in the world - and she's a total geek who strangely enough, loves me too. Just thought I would mention it again, in case I (or you) forgot...

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Little Boys: Music, Madness and Mayhem

My boys are really fond of music. And they are fond of a great variety of music. From folk to classical, from classic rock to oldschool country. In yougest's case, I suspect it is as much being fond of things that his brother likes and liking most things that come his way. In eldest's case, he is somewhat more picky, but only in regards to particular artists or bands he doesn't like - he is pretty fond of most every genre of music he's heard. He goes on tangents, not ending his appreciation for bents he's been on previously, but getting really excited about particular kinds that he comes across and getting obsessed with that genre for a while. Lately, he's been really big on bagpipes.

So today I was letting him pick from music on my computer. He noticed the folder labeled Tool and, being quite fond of tools, decided to give it a try. Now mind you, he was very fond of Rage Against the Machine, from when he was about nine or ten months, until he was about twenty nine or thirty months and we figured out that he was actually repeating "Fuck you I won't do what you tell me..." We started being quite a bit more careful about the music he was listening to at that point and rarely has he listened to anything really heavy, though he was into the Dead Kennedys and The Clash for a while.

Within minutes of Tool going on chaos ensued, with fourteen month old and seven year old thrashing, laughing and having a hella great time. After of few songs the eldest asked if I had anything else like this and I put on Linkin Park for them - if anything, this was even better. Youngest didn't even need big brother's example and started the thrashing (which mostly involves shaking his head and ass back and forth and falling over a lot). We also listened to The Haunted and some Rage, though I was rather careful about which songs we listened to.

So now eldest is probably going on a metal bent. I am going to be careful about which songs go on, but I am compiling a cd for him to put on his mp3 player. We did spend the last couple hours before bed, listening to bagpipe music and looking at Scottish folk dancing - so that obsession's not spent yet, but I daresay that it is going to be supplanted with his new obsession for metal. Thankfully (as angry as I am with her) his mom probably won't mind - she's rather fond of most of the music I'm putting on the disk and used to his musical obsessions. That, and watching the boys dance is a fucking riot - dancing with youngest is also a lot of fun - though he kept trying to headbutt me while thrashing - apparently he's rather fond of headbutting now, thanks to his twisted older brother...

What I really love about this though - we started the day with Celtic folk music in the van. Then we were listening to Neil Young, after lunch and playing at the park - which youngest fell away for his nap to. After he woke up eldest discovered Tool and we listened to metal for a couple hours (with bits of riding the scooter out front, here and there). From there we got to bagpipes and now they've had story time and fallen asleep to Vivaldi's four seasons and papa's mellowing down with some Verdi (not necessarily my first choice at the moment, but of the things that won't wake anyone up Rigoletto is at the top right now).

Why you might ask, do I love this so? Because I have this sort of mix on my mp3 player at any given point and it's always on shuffle. If I am listening from the computer, I either listen to Pandora - which if I'm not working on a paper is on quick-mix, all stations included, or I listen to all my music on mix. About the only time my mp3 player's not on shuffle, is when I am driving - in which case it's mostly metal or audio books (if only I could play both at once...).

I am also thrilled to discover that the eldest is still bent on playing music and writing his own, just like papa - but not just because papa writes music. No, he is very fond of the music and I suspect also hears it in his head. As he's gotten older and more capable of humming clearly and improving his whistling, it's become more apparent what he's doing. And when asked where he heard this or that before, he responds; "in my head." Given my own issues, it makes me weep with equal parts great joy and great sorrow.

At the very least, he has a papa who will never just smile and nod and pretend he understands when he doesn't.

And the youngest has fucking amazing rhythm. While eldest would sporadically find himself on a beat and hold it for a bit, youngest is just the opposite. He occasionally doesn't carry a beat - but by and large he bangs on things with a remarkable sense of rhythm, for a fourteen month old.

Friday, April 10, 2009

A Hell of a Trip to Bizzaro World

So I survived the trip to TN, to see my boys - which was questionable for a bit there. I was expecting to hit the shit weather in TN, not in KY, which was just supposed to be occasional showers. Yet it was in KY that I was hammered by a nasty deluge of heavy rain and occasional thunder and lightening. It was also in KY, where I almost changed lanes into a asshole who didn't think he needed his lights on - when the sky is twilight dark, visibility is about 200 feet and he's driving a black car. And he wasn't the only moron without their lights on.

It was also in KY that I discovered that the reason I had to cut the zip ties off the old wiper blades, is because the wiper arms aren't the right kind for my vehicle and so the blades don't lock into place properly - even though they seem to be locked in just fine. I will only say that I'm grateful the one that popped loose didn't go flying off - but it came really close and would have had I not noticed it initially start off the pin and took the next exit. When I actually stopped and lifted the arm, it fell right off...Also glad that the gas station I stopped at had zip ties.

Saw the boys for a bit before checking into my hotel - made it just before their bedtime (and am looking forward to mine, as soon as I can wind down from the damned drive). They were very excited to see me and I am certain we'll be having the big fun this weekend. Although I am not sure how fun the competing for papa's lap will be - we'll see how it goes.

And then I checked into the hotel - a pretty cheap one. I discovered that it is actually an improvement on the one that we stayed at when my mom came last time - that one being about fifty percent more than this one. And it is a definite improvement on the cheap one I stayed at before that - which was a little more than this one if I recall.

Onto the strange then. My base assumption when dealing with folks around here, is that the person I'm talking to is somewhere on the spectrum of right of center to extremely right of center - and given the bumper stickers and overheard discussions, it is generally a safe assumption to make. Not to say that folks in these parts aren't decent folks, some of them exceptionally so - just saying that they tend to be far more conservative than the folks back home, who tend to be staunch moderates. And a huge difference from Portland, where I pretty much qualify as a conservative myself.

So I stopped into a bar to grab a bite and there was a news show on, discussing a anti-gay marriage organization. There were a couple of guys sitting around the corner of the bar from me talking, when one of them noticed me scowl at the tee vee. The next thing I know, I'm in a very interesting discussion about gay marriage, in which both of them were pro and one of them really went off on a rant about it. Explaining that it's just nobody's damned business if people want to marry people of the same sex and how it wouldn't do a damned thing to hurt his marriage.

I love people sometimes - though not so much when I'm driving.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Mood Disorders in Men: My New Paper

For the full document, including cover, abstract, references and appendix, click here. The following is the body of the paper.

Mood Disorders in Men 3

Mood Disorders in Men:

Gender Constructs and Diagnostic/Treatment Failures

There is no question that women are diagnosed with affective mood disorders at much higher rates than men. Granted the absolute rates of depression in women are a source of contention, but multiple studies show that women are diagnosed with major depression and dysthemia at rates double those of men. A great deal of study has gone into investigating the reasons for this, from biology to oppression and other social conditions, even certain personality factors. Yet the causes of these higher rates of depression and mood disorders have continued to elude researchers (Blehar & Oren, 1997, p.2). It is not unreasonable to assume, based on these findings, that there simply must be something unique to women, causing this disparity.

Very few psychologists and fewer researchers have considered the idea that rather than being a women's issue, this disparity might just be a men's issue. It would seem rather difficult to figure out just what's fueling this disparity, without looking at why men aren't diagnosed with depression at nearly the rates women are. It would be incredibly hard to find the causal relationship that explains higher rates of depression in women, if the base assumptions driving that research are mistaken in the first place. But given the disparate focus of most gender studies on women and women's issues, it's unsurprising that this seemingly obvious avenue of investigation is mostly lost in the mix.

The Gender Gap Fallacy

The sentiments expressed by Drs. Blehar and Oren are very consistent with the assumptions of mainstream, modern psychology and women's studies. In their 2003 paper, The Depression Gender Gap, Ronald Immerman and Wade Mackey actually claim that there is a consistent evolutionary history at work in these higher rates of depression in women. Because they found that the median ratio of depression between men and women, in several countries was close to 2:1, they claim this is just a part

Mood Disorders in Men 4

of what it means to be human. Yet when we look at their own table, we see that while the figures do come to that median, the ratio is far from consistent.

Figure 1. Site of survey and female to male ratio of prevalence of depression across nations and communities. Note that three communities listed are expatriate communities in the UK. Note. From Immerman, R. S., & Mackey, W. C. (2003, February). The depression gender gap: a view through a biocultural filter. Genetic, Social, and General Psychology Monographs, 129(1), 5-35. Retrieved March 8th, 2009 from the Michigan E-Library,

Avoiding the obvious logical fallacies that drive the entire notion of evolutionary psychology that Immerman and Mackey dive into, there remains the important question of how men fit into this equation. Because the underlying assumption that women experience depression at such significantly higher rates than men, is called into question by Berger, Levant, McMillan, Kelleher and Sellers (2005), finding that “ men who score higher on measures of gender role conflict and traditional masculinity

Mood Disorders in Men 5

ideology tend to have more negative attitudes toward psychological help seeking.” This is probably due the higher rates of alexythima (difficulty experiencing, thinking about and expressing emotions) in men with high rates of gender role conflict (A. R. Fischer & Good, 1997). When the population of comparison, in this case men, are unlikely to seek help for or even recognize that they have a problem, they are also unlikely to be diagnosed with affective mood disorders. While these papers don't indicate rates of depression in men, they certainly call into question the disparity in the rates of depression between women and men.

The Problem of Help Seeking and Diagnosis

More disturbing than the tangential impact these papers have on the question of gender disparity and mood disorders, are the implications for men and help seeking. The evidence indicates that there is a substantial segment of the population that has serious problems even recognizing they might have psychological problems, much less seeking help. The problem is further complicated by generalized diagnostic criteria which are predicated on the understanding that the patient can identify and describe their various emotional states. Without compensating for undiagnosed alexythima, or gender conflict induced emotional disassociation, patients with potentially serious mood disorders will inevitably be misdiagnosed, undiagnosed or the severity of the diagnosis may be seriously understated.

Mariola Magovcevic and Michael E. Addis , of Clark University have taken the initial steps in the development of a masculine depressive index (appendix) to help diagnose depression in men who tend to adhere closely to masculine norms (2008). The methodology is a significant improvement over that of previous studies because the subjects were screened in for a recent (last three months) depressogenic events, but the authors are also very clear about the limitations of this study. There is a great deal more work to be done to develop a coherent and comprehensive diagnostic criteria for depression in men and this study didn't look at any other affective mood disorders.

Mood Disorders in Men 6

The obvious isn't always so obvious and therein lies a great deal of trouble when it comes to dealing with the problems of encouraging help seeking, improving diagnostic criteria and treatment protocols – this is very new territory. While traditionally the ratio of depression from men to women has been assumed to be about 2:1, the ratio of bipolar diagnosis, for example, has been fairly even ( Blehar & Oren, 1997, p.2). The implications of higher rates of unipolar depression in men than previously thought, would imply that the rates of bipolar disorder are also higher than previously thought. Yet none of the articles cited in this paper and few of the articles read while preparing to write this paper discuss the possibility of higher rates of any affective disorders besides depression.

The Gender Gap in Gender Studies

Though there have been several solid studies that have indicated these higher rates of depression in men, there has been very little popular discussion of the findings. The assumption that women experience significantly higher rates of depression than men is still a fundamental premise of most women's studies programs. Not because the studies indicating otherwise are flawed, or because they are being willfully ignored. Rather, they just haven't been noticed. This really shouldn't come as any surprise to those involved in gender studies, especially men's studies. While virtually every college with a psychology department has a women's studies program, there are very few that have a specific men's studies program and there are no graduate men's studies programs in the U.S. An exhaustive web search for men's studies texts, yields less than a dozen academic journals. In contrast, a cursory web search turns up more than fifty core women's studies journals.

The most important implication of this evidence is the critical need for more focus on men's studies for the sake of the mental health of a large segment of society. But there is a secondary implication here. The findings discussed here have significant relevance to the study of depression in women. First, it provides evidence that the disparity in diagnosis is considerably different than

Mood Disorders in Men 7

traditionally considered. Second, this research points to the importance of gender specific diagnostic and treatment models for depression and other affective mood disorders. It also makes a reasonable argument for investigating whether gender specific approaches might be appropriate for other neurological issues.

Men's Studies and Society

There is a broader social implication to the studies discussed here. Archetypal male gender constructs and gender role conflicts are just as abusive to men, as they often are to women. They foster emotional repression, health care problems, obsession with achievement and power, problems with sexual and affectionate behaviors, and homophobia. GRCs often create an outright fear of anything that could be mistaken as feminine in nature ( Magovcevic & Addis, 2008, p118; Blazina, Settle & Eddins, 2008, p70). Aside from the impact of archetypal male gender constructs and GRCs on the mental health and wellbeing of some men, there is also the impact on the rest of society to consider.

Yet while there are a great number of women studying female gender constructs and developing methods for women to transcend archetypal female gender constructs, very few men are studying masculine gender constructs. There are unfortunately, more women involved in men's studies than there are men. This is not to speak poorly of the women who are working in the fields of men's studies or to disparage their work. It ultimately speaks poorly of men for not stepping up and dealing with problems of masculinity and men.

The same gender conflicts that drive many men to emotional disassociation are probably largely responsible for this gender gap in men's studies. It is important to recognize that the underlying archetypal male gender constructs are a continuum, not a dichotomy (Tremblay & L'Heureux, 2005, p56). Even though most men avoid the extremes of GRCs, most men still fall somewhere along that spectrum and experience to some degree many of the problems discussed above. This means that while

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the manifestation may not be as extreme as those discussed above, they are often prohibitive nonetheless.

Deconstructing Gender

Women's studies are very important and the focus of gender studies on women's studies is understandable – most of the people involved in gender studies are women. But it is important to recognize that the lack of focus on men's studies affects women and even impacts feminine gender constructs and the socialization of women. The ramifications of masculine gender constructs have a profound affect on everyone, as do gender constructs across the spectrum. From the health and mental wellbeing of men, to the impact of GRCs and even the average masculine norms on society as a whole. The time has long since passed for an increased focus on male gender constructs that goes beyond looking at whats wrong and focuses on how to make it right.

The Joys of Falling for a Geek

While the logistics of developing a more than casual affection for someone who lives a million miles away are rather complicated and stressful, falling for a geek rocks. It is really wonderful to adore and be adored by someone who actually gets excited about the notion of reading the papers you write and who just doesn't buy into the notion that they aren't very good.

It is just really great to call up a women you are coming to care for, more and more every time you communicate with her and have her get really excited that you just emailed her your latest paper. Although she probably doesn't realize this means she owes me some emailed paper goodness of her own...But as I say she adores me too, so I just know that she'll send me some.

I may have failed to mention it previously, but this is one hella damned brilliant women and reading what she has to say is positively electrifying. And while her blogposts and emails are rather exciting, I am positively giddy with anticipation for even more formal examples of her stunning feats of mental prowess.

All this excitement and she's fucking gorgeous on top of it all - and not only willing to, but interested in putting up with me!!!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Does anyone have a webcam and gmail (gmail video chat a plus)???

I am getting set to head to TN Friday and will be taking a webcam, because the last one I took didn't work on their computer. I would like to make sure everything will work properly with the camera I got them and I intend on using gmail video chat, because like I have mentioned in the past, I really love Teh Google...

Any help with this would be appreciated, but I'll warn you now - I will not get nekked for anyone* on camera.

(*ok, there is one person I probably would get nekked for, but if you don't think you're her, you're not...)

Monday, April 6, 2009

Here's Hoping She Accepts Appendices...

And now the assignment is, "aww hell, I don't care how long it is as long as you don't get too carried away." She is, as I suspected looking forward to reading it, appendices and all.

So the assignment is four to six pages, double typed with a figure or table (properly cited in APA format). The problem is that I have more than one table to cite - possibly two more. Just one of them is two pages in itself, but fairly critical to my point.

If you were the prof who handed out the assignment, would you accept appendices that were most assuredly not defined in the assignment? Given the restrictive nature of the assignment, this seems quite reasonable to me - but then I'm not necessarily the best person to judge that sort of thing.

Keep in mind that I didn't attempt reducing the font size to snag a little more space (mainly because I think suspect that she might pay special attention to that with my paper)...

Addendum; I am having one hell of a time getting this damned thing finished. Every turn is driving me to way too long a paper. These damned APA citations are huge, when have multiple authors, but not enough to amend the parenthetical cites to the first author. And ultimately even if it were twelve pages, this paper would still be scratching the surface...ARRGGHH!!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

If you don't know what you're doing - Don't Damn Well Try!!!

I am very good at a lot of different things. There is very little involved in construction and home repair that I am unable to accomplish. I am fairly adept at microelectronic repairs and I am also pretty good at fine woodworking. When it comes to automotive repair however, my abilities are pretty limited - mainly because I have generally found it far more efficient to work trade with mechanics who can get it done more efficiently, while I can get work for them done more efficiently - but I can do the things I am capable of rather well - such as brakes.

The thing is, being capable of many things, I also am very aware of my limitations and I work within that framework. For example, while I am rather capable of certain basic appliance repairs, I don't even consider trying to tackle most of it. When I run into things that are obviously not something I should be mucking with - I don't muck with it. I have immense amounts of experience fixing the muck-ups of other people and I just don't go there. For my own part, if a homeowner made an attempt at a repair and screwed it all up, I would generally charge a little more. Because usually their attempt is going to make the actual repair more difficult for me. The exceptions to that are the folks who stop as soon as they realize that they're in over their head - or the folks who hired someone in good faith who wasn't capable - in which case I usually cut them a break.

Whoever tried to do the brakes on my van, seriously mucked them up. What should have taken me less than two hours and cost about a hundred dollars in parts, took the better part of yesterday and a few hours today - and cost nearly eighty dollars more than it should have. And this isn't the only muck-up of theirs I have had to deal with with this van. There is a lot of evidence of their incompetence.

So I have a few tips for DIYers out there, advice that will save you money, headaches and keep the person who comes along to deal with it if you can't, from being really cranky and charging you a lot of money.

First and foremost - The moment you realize that things are not working out the way they should STOP!!! Do not continue until you have ensured that you are doing it right, or have found clear directions that will move you forward from there. If you cannot make either of those things happen, call someone who can.

Second - If it does not look the way it did when you took it apart, you're probably doing something wrong. Unless you are changing a fixture out for one that is different, it should go back together the same way it came apart.

Third - Bolts do not need to be tightened down so hard that they will never come back off. If there is no specified torque, you should tighten it until you run into resistance and then go about a half to three quarters of a turn further. Over tightening is likely to cause damage either right now, or the next time that nut or bolt needs to be removed (This would be one of the problems I ran into with this brake job).

Fourth - Use like fasteners. Do not try to improvise fasteners, unless you absolutely know what you are doing and what will work instead of the one you took off. If the screw, nail, bolt or other fastening doo-hickey doesn't look like the one you removed - chances are you shouldn't use it. (The reason I had to do the brake job in the first place)

Fifth - Don't be afraid to go to online forums and ask for help. There are forums for virtually everything you could begin to try to repair and they are quite often frequented by pros who, mainly to feed narcissistic tendencies*, are happy to help you figure out what you're doing.

Sixth - If you are working on a car, on something involving wheels - symmetry is usually rather important. If you change one tire, change the one across from it. If you change shocks or struts - again change both. If you are changing brake pads and/or rotors, change the one across (calipers are a different story). If you are not sure if you need to change both sides, ask - the folks at your auto-supply store can probably tell you.

Finally, and I can't stress this enough. If you aren't sure - if something doesn't seem right - STOP!!! Do not continue until you have assured yourself that you are doing it right, or you have found out how to do it right.

* This is one of the motivating factors that drove me to do that sort of thing and trust me, I'm far from unique. Not to say that we're assholes - we genuinely like to help others, but narcissism is definitely a factor.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Off To See The Wizard.....

So today will be an interesting trip, because I am going to bring up something that I haven't discussed yet - mainly because I wasn't sure exactly how the other person felt and for some reason figured that was relevant to my feelings. Also I suspect, that I just didn't want to admit that I ended up in this place. But I have been discussing it with the other party and while I have been properly chastised for my presumptuous boy idiocy, things are a lot less unclear.

I will be admitting to my therapist that I have fallen for a brilliant, beautiful women who lives a million miles away.

We will also be discussing the latest chapter in the situation with my boys and my forthcoming trip to see them next weekend. As well as my new meds, which really seem to be coming together rather nicely.

And when I am done, I will try to work on a post about exactly what I am doing with my therapist's help and how that whole situation is working out. I have been rather reticent to go into it, because it is hard to explain and because it is hard enough to journal what I am actually learning about myself, as a result of the discussions with my therapist. But I do think it's important to go into that, given the focus I have put on the drugs. We'll see how it goes.

I am at the heart, a very foolish man - but I'm trying...

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Addiction, Neurological Issues, Satan and the Framing Wars

I am keeping this top posted for the moment, as I have a couple of comments out that refer to it - please check out more recent posts below.

A couple of quick additions. First, I want to let those who care know that the new meds seem to be coming together for me. It's still a little early to tell, but switching off the Seroquel was definitely a positive and I do feel better overall. Second, a friend who is familiar with the coffee shop and it's denizens - as well as me, thought it likely that the scowls I got from those around us, were probably as much because of the slam on Bill. She also mentioned that they were probably already scowling at me, I just didn't notice. There are usually a few AA folks there and I do tend to discuss addiction quite a bit. So a lot of the regulars know that while I'm not as harsh as some folks on AA, I am highly critical.

I would just like to provide an example of why I have, the position I have, on a discussion over at Greg Laden's blog and on what amounts to a three year discussion about framing science and it's intersection with religion. This is something that keeps flaring up and always perks my interest, because one, I've been involved for about three years (give or take several months) and two, my position on it has changed considerably for several reasons.

Taxing my google skills to their max and beyond (learned a couple things doing this), I have managed to find one of the earliest posts on this discussion, by none other than my own brother Ed, over at Dispatches. If you're a glutton for punishment, you can wade through some of the comments and check out my contribution, which is a far different position than I express today. And one of the contributors to the evolution of my stance and shedding of my Faith, has been this very discussion. It was my intent to actually dig through and find a couple of my comments, but after the time and effort it took just finding these posts, I haven't the will. Please keep in mind that this isn't actually the first post, nor was this the only one at the time. There were at least a couple dozen other bloggers who weighed in on that particular flame war, several with more than one post.

On and off, this discussion has continued over the last couple of years, most often fomented by a Matt Nisbett who blogs at the Seed sciblog collective. I'll link to one of his more recent examples of foolishness, though to be honest, I dislike Matt enough and suspect his motivations to the point that I am hesitant to actually link him. Back around thanksgiving last, he posted this bullshit, wherein he explains to us ignorant gits, that calling people who deny certain fundamentals, such as evolution, the importance of vaccines, or, in the context of this very post, basic neuropsychology denialists, is a bad, bad thing. Several of my favorite bloggers had a lot to say about that. Matt has also given out several other fuckyouverymuch's, like this gem. And I don't know why it didn't occur to me before, but Bora, the sciblogger aggregator has this passel of links from days gone by. (Bora totally rocks, btw...)

Hell of a build-up, to a rather short example - but this is why I am not going to shut up and play nice. (also note that this was my first day off Seroquel and on the new drugs)
I was in the coffee shop the other day, when I chanced into a conversation with an absolute Uber-Faithful nutter. A bible and Big Book thumping True Believer. I was discussing addiction and harm reduction, with a casual coffeehouse friend, when TB decided to jump into the conversation. I had just finished explaining my own experience with addiction, (yes, I actually talk some about the things discussed in the last link on occasion, though honestly I don't remember whether I did in this conversation) when TB busted in with; "You're going to school to study Addiction! You think you're managing your addictions?! You're either nuts or stupid!!!" He wasn't actually that loud, but he was nearly hysterical by the time he got to the last bit, at which point he decided to sit down at our table - to his credit, he does know Casual Friend.

The money quote, my response to which sent him away horribly offended, ranting under his breath:
You are never going to actually deal with your addictions or get to the root of your supposed "neurological issues" until you accept Jesus back into you heart and accept the truth. Mental illness is bullshit. It's nothing more than Satan convincing you that instead of drinking and getting high, you can take these other drugs. Man is not going to help you get through your problems, therapy isn't going to solve anything, unless it's Christ centered therapy. Satan has control of you man and you need to fight him - drugs aren't going to fight Satan! Only Christ and the power of prayer can get you through this!!

Then he put his hand on my shoulder and actually asked me if he could pray with me. Seriously.

"Get your fucking hand off me, you fucking nutter! Take your Faith in Christ and your Faith in Bill and your Faith in Satan and shove it up your ass, you denialist fucking loon! Fairytales have nothing to do with what's going on in my head jackass, it's fucking neurochemistry - the way my fucking brain works!"

"You're addicted to drugs and addicted to Satan!"

"I'm a fucking atheist you fucking moron!!!"

And yes, I was more or less fucking hysterical by this point - seriously fucking pissed. Pissed enough that I shouted rather loudly, in the middle of a coffee shop in the midwest, that I'm an atheist. And I'm really only an atheist in the broadest sense of the word, deist is far more accurate a label. But I was pretty sure he wouldn't have a clue what that meant, and as I said, I was borderline hysterical - which side of said border, it's hard to say. My rather loud admission garnered me a few scowls. On the other hand, when next I went for a refill, my friendly barista mentioned that a gent over yonder had covered my next cup - when I looked over, he smiled at me and shortly after wandered over to our table.

Now I need to explain that there was about half an hour, forty-five minutes of discussion before TB and I got into our shouting match. It had mostly been a reasonable discussion, with TB mostly just listening. When he started into the above long quote (not quite a perfect reproduction, but very close - the last one was his exact words), it was like he just couldn't take it anymore and had to respond to a lot that had been said. I avoided saying anything at all about AA while he was sitting there, but I did talk about harm reduction and started touching on linguistics - he really took exception to the idea that anyone can be considered successful in treating their addiction, if they aren't entirely abstinent from all psychoactive substances - including psychiatric drugs.

After he had left, Casual Friend explained that TB regularly relapses, carries a great deal of guilt and seems to be increasingly unhinged about it all. Mind you TB's relapses aren't multi-week, or even multi-day binges in which he gets totally hammered and blacks out. Every several months, he apparently breaks down and has a couple of beers before he can stop himself.

I also want to explain that I grew up with TB's same sort of bullshit, though not quite as extreme. My mom firmly believed that my "problems" growing up, were the result of demonic activity - probably passed down from my biological father. While she has come to accept some of the ideas of neuropsychology, she still believes that many of my problems are influenced by demons - at least she accepts that the drugs are probably a very good idea (Yes CPP, I will get to discussing my cognitive therapy soon). By default, I also believed that sort of bullshit and it was nothing but trouble for me, until I got over it and accepted who I am and how my brain functions.

The thing is, while TB is an extremist, fringe fucking loon, my mom isn't. Her beliefs aren't really outside the fundamentalist mainstream on this - indeed she's rather comparatively tame these days. I am not trying to claim that all, or even most Christians attribute mental illness to demonic possession or activity, but a great many fundamentalists do. They'll accept the occasional need for medication, grudgingly, but many of them have serious issues with members of the flock seeing secular therapists instead of Christ focused counseling and prayer. And I have been to talk with several pastors in that context - it's truly insane what these folks are legally allowed to get away with in the name of religion.

Just in this, my small corner of the conflict between Faith and reason, the stakes are high and the battle is tough. Those fundamentalist positions, watered down to the moderate baseline are still quite often an uphill battle. Instead of the extreme, anti-science - blame it on Satan approach, it is merely a distrust of science that conflicts with dogma. And no matter how much you water it down, there is still conflict between science and dogma. Because unless that dogma makes absolutely no claims about it's god's influence on the natural world, there is either conflict or a god that does virtually nothing at all.

I am not militant. I'm not even really much of an atheist, I rather tend to think it likely that there is some sort of physical/spiritual duality to living beings. I no longer Believe it, but I certainly wouldn't be surprised if someday we discover that this is indeed the case. When people decide that they want their god to bless me, I just smile and nod. When they ask me if it's ok to pray for me, I politely tell them that I don't think it makes a lick of difference, but it doesn't bother me. But when people want to make claims about Faith, that conflict with reality, I am not just going to smile and nod - I will respond to it. And if they are going to insist on fucking idiot notions like those of TB, I may well get fucking rude about it. If they are going to insult me with their presumptions about the nature of my shedding my Faith, I am probably going to get pissed if they insist on keeping up with it, after I've made my position clear. (Though as a general rule, I don't tend to get hysterical - that was more the headspace I was in already, than anything TB said)

And if you want to tell me that my doing this is a bad thing, that I need to change my language or shut up and let others talk about it, you can go fuck yourself.


Now That You Mention It, There Are Times I Hate My Race...

...Because all too often, we humans are complete bloody morons.

So I spent a little time over the last few days, going the rounds with a particularly egregious example of human idiocy, over at the above linked CPP post. Mostly I was just messing with the jackass, but I'll admit that he had me rather irritable. Not because he was being smug and trying to get my goat - to the contrary, I would have probably just dropped it if he had been. The reason I got rather cranky with this particular person, is because he actually believes he has a valid point. He truly cannot understand why he was being mocked and no one was taking him seriously, except for me. And honestly, I was more than a little harsh with him. Reasonably so.

You see, this particular idiot truly doesn't grasp the notion of beige privilege. He figures that because there are plenty of poor white folks, then it must be a crock of crap and those of us beige type folks who have issues with that "hate our race." That we must just cheer when another "white" person goes to jail for drugs. Completely missing the point, even after it was quite clearly explained to him and later he was smacked upside his cyber-head with it.

Personally, I don't want to see anyone in jail for using or selling currently illicit drugs. I do want to see violent thugs in jail, but I want to see them in jail for being violent thugs, not because they also happen to be drug dealers. Or if they sell to kids, but honestly, I would also like to see people who sell alcohol to kids go to jail too. Because I'm pretty sure that if we start actually putting people in jail, instead of fining them and the store, they might take it a little more seriously. But I digress.

I want to see the laws enforced equally - and make no mistake, I want them enforced. As much of a radical as I have been and still am, I am also a very firm believer in law and order. Nor do I restrict that to laws I agree with or actions I disagree with. I want to see the law enforced, even when we're talking about acts of civil disobedience, something that I have engaged in on more than one occasion. I want to see them enforced right up to the point that it becomes an impossibility without the level force necessary, far outweighing the acts of disobedience - such as happens when there are so very many people involved that enforcement becomes impractical.

I don't want to see statistics that show me people with a brown hue to their skin are getting busted for dope or simply pulled over, far more frequently than their beige counterparts. I don't want to walk down the street in my old ghetto neighborhood in Portland and get a quick stop for a minute or less, by the idiots from the gang task force - then watch them harass my neighbor for about fifteen minutes, until he finally agrees to let them search him in front of his daughter, who is watching from the balcony. A neighbor who doesn't even drink, much less use or sell illicit drugs. A neighbor who works two jobs, so he could try to get his family the hell out of that hellhole.

This didn't used to bother me nearly so much. I mean it did, but it was peripheral - not really an issue for me. Go figure it wasn't, I've had very limited experiences with racism - fewer still where I happened to be the target of the racism. But then, I may have mentioned - I'm beige. And I grew up in an area of the midwest, that isn't exactly a major metropolis - not even close. There wasn't major unrest or even much in the way of overt racism - it was more of a passive aggressive sort. But it was and still is, rather segregated. For that matter, the underlying passive aggressive racism still flourishes, though it is far less than it was when I was a child.

Then I left the area I grew up in and hitchhiked away. One of the first places I ended up, is kind of a quintessential midwestern dream-town, Saint Louis. It is like a absolutely massive, small midwestern town, that is imbued with many of the best traits of small towns, while simultaneously being imbued with many of the best traits of larger metropolitan settings - including being considerably less segregated. I was suddenly surrounded by diversity and honestly, it really rocked. I frequented a club that catered to the performance art scene and there were people of many different colors hanging out and performing there. It was really cool, but honestly, it didn't do much to make the topic of racism all that much less peripheral - some of the artists used racism as a theme, but it wasn't really prevalent where I was living (I'm beige remember - it was probably there, but I didn't see it), so the impact was minimal.

It wasn't really until I moved to Portland, that it became far more than peripheral to me. It wasn't until I watched how the people with darker skin in my neighborhoods were treated, compared to how my beige skinned neighbors were treated, that it really started making me angry. It wasn't until my then four year old asked me what racism meant, that I really, really got angry. "Thankfully" we had already discussed anti-gay bigotry when he was three and arbitrarily hating someone because of their skin didn't seem any more silly than arbitrarily hating them because they happen to love people of their own sex - though it made no sense whatever to my little boy - still doesn't.

Then we moved to the really crappy, ghetto neighborhood. When I was threatened with arrest, because I was trying to explain the the neanderthal thugs with badges, that they were messing with my hardworking neighbor, in front of his daughter...I was fucking explosive.

And now it has even more impact, because there is a spectacularly brilliant, absolutely beautiful women who I am coming to care for more and more, on a virtually daily basis. Not the most practical of situations for a number of reasons, it is, nonetheless, what it is. It also happens that she is not beige in skin tone like I am.

I don't want to live in a culture that will treat me better than the women I am falling for - a women who if anything, is rather brighter than I am.