Monday, August 9, 2010

If only I had an extra seven grand to toss about

I would have the best computer ever...

I will have some discussion about the boys - including an hour stuck at a rest area in the middle of nowhere, while I disassembled my steering column to start the van later.  I will also post about ignorant fucking morons and the implications of a paper (PDF) that shockingly reveals that the metric to test whether employment screens are biased, turns out to be fatally flawed. But first, a bit of my fantasy life. 

It would start with this, set into this.  It would have two sets of these, cooled by this.  It would also contain one of these and six of these.  It's primary drives, would be two of these though.  It would live right here in this pretty case, assuming I can make the stupid blue light go away.  It would use this power supply.  It would be controlled with this mouse and keyboard set, though sometimes might be controlled by a handy little remote keyboard with trackball.  I would use this lovely thing for a monitor, while also piping a split to the tee vee in the living room - which, since we are dreaming, is a sixty some inch flat panel, hidden behind bookshelves on sliders most of the time (thus the need for the wee remote keyboard).  I would use these speakers in my home office, but would totally go with Bose in the living room.  I honestly don't see a need for optical drives, since with twelve TB of storage and the ability to use this desktop as a server, I am not sure what the point would be. 

I would, however, need one of these, these and this + a hell of a badass internets connection.

We won't even begin to talk about my five odd thousand dollar laptop.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Youth, men and sexual being

I would just remind people reading this on blogger, that I am not going to be cross-posting here much longer.  My new address is over here and if you leave a comment, that is where they will be responded to.

Stephanie posted an interesting piece at Quiche Moraine about "safe" boys and a state of sexual being.  Suffice to say that this post generated a lot of discussion, some of which exposed some confusion and frustration - if not a lot of gratitude as well.  Then she turned around and posted a gender reading list on her personal blog - which included me.  I would like to address some issues that came up in the discussion at QM in a little more detail, though I highly recommend the post - if you have yet to read it and the discussion that follows.

Of particular interest to me, were some comments by becca, that I think really encapsulate a rather significant problem with this sort of discussion:
I get that it’s very hard for men without many communication skills, or strong interpersonal skills to learn to say this kind of thing. I get why it might be difficult for them to *communicate* how they want to define the parameters of relationships. I just don’t get how “safehood” is having their power to define the relationships stripped from them. Why aren’t such communication-challenged men equally unable to ask for a certain type of relationship before being classified as “safe”?
This is a problem when a conversation about men and archetypal male gender constructs comes up with a crowd like this one.  There is an assumption on the part of many women, that their experience with men is representative, that they understand men better than they do and ultimately that men should just suck it the fuck up and deal with the problem.  I am not singling becca out for any other reason than I am a little bit familiar with her from previous discussions and I know that she won't get particularly annoyed with me for doing so.  Suffice to say that there were several people over there making much the same points, some of whom encapsulated all three of the problems I listed rather better than becca did.

First of all, when dealing with women like becca, who have a father who is atypical, there is going to be more than average selection bias going on.  IIRC, her dad was largely stay at home and heavily engaged in her homeschooling experience.  He also seems, by her few accounts, more than a little comfortable in his skin.  If that weren't the excuse, there are many others - if nothing else, rather intellectual women (at least that I have noticed) tend to go for rather intellectual men. Often enough, dare I say, rather nerdy and/or geeky guys.  This is a rather delicious irony to the discussion about "safe" men - when those nerd boys grow up, they are often rather more emotionally mature than men in general.

For whatever reasons, women who are likely to get involved in a discussion like that one, are far more likely to have a partner who has certain, specific characteristics - such as not being a testosterone driven jackass.  They are more likely to spend time with guys who are more thoughtful and introspective.  Not just in their romantic endeavors (assuming they are into guys), but in their platonic relationships as well.  So this conversation is confusing for some of them - especially if they are partnered to a nerdy, geeky guy.

But that doesn't explain it all.  There is also the problem of really not seeing what there actually is to see.  For those of us who grew up in Western culture, especially in the U.S., there is a lot that we miss because we are inundated with it, surrounded by it.  Archetypal gender constructs are still alive and well and pervasive in the West.  That isn't to say that there haven't been improvements - there absolutely have.  But we are what we are and we are acculturated in our given culture.

Even those of us who are introspective and thoughtful are fucked up.  Men who are acculturated in the West, especially in the U.S., have certain, specific emotional deficits.  While maturation generally helps, nothing can erase a lifetime of these gender constructs and pervasive, continuing bombardment of them.  Some of us are generally decent guys in many regards, others of us try our damnedest but are not quite as decent - most of us just kind of suck.  But not a single one of us has the ability to understand, much less discuss our emotions all that well.

This is, of course, made exponentially worse by the common assumption on the part of most men, that women are absolute emotional geniuses who are perfectly comfortable understanding and discussing their emotions with a friend.  And if a friend isn't available, well, there is always some woman somewhere, to talk to - maybe in a public bathroom or something.  The reality is that women are moderately better at this than men, but that is relative to men who mostly range from complete incompetence, to bumbling ineptitude.  That doesn't mean that women aren't pretty fucked up too.

The final problem here, is the assumption that even  a relatively confident, emotionally intelligent guy - even one steeped in interpersonal communications, is capable of really expressing what they really want.  Again, this is something that women aren't perfect at - it is just relative to the seriously fucked up problems  many men have with communication.  This doesn't even address the problems with communicating feelings we barely have a grasp of, this tendency to only "feel" those emotions that are most intense.  This is also more relevant to romantic interests - unrequited and otherwise.

We are, as a general rule, not very good at communicating what we actually want, because for the most part we're not really sure.  Even when we have a pretty good idea, often we try to figure out what that person of interest wants and do our best to fulfill that instead.  Unless of course, we want sex and pretty much just sex.  Not that we're generally grand at that either, we're just usually rather obvious.  But when it comes to developing a serious relationship with a significant other, we really suck at even necessarily knowing what we want, much less how to communicate it.

This relates rather closely with our inability to functionally manage our feelings.  I remember years and years ago, as a rather young teen, I was about to make out with a girl I had recently met.  I really liked this girl, having just lost a debate round to her.  Both her partner and mine really sucked and we would have been evenly matched, except that she busted out with a totally unexpected argument that flustered me both because it was brilliant and because I suddenly found her very attractive.  About two hours after meeting her, we were in her hotel room and the person she was sharing a room with had just left.  She laid down on the bed and like a complete moron, I accidentally told her "I love you."

She of course got pissed, thinking I was completely lying to get what was rather obviously already coming.  The problem was, I was thinking that - not that I really loved her, just that I was really blown away by her.  But this is rather par for the course with men - especially when we are boys.  I had a pretty good idea that I wasn't in love with her, though I definitely had a major crush going.  I definitely knew better than to tell her that I loved her.  I had no idea really, what I was feeling and instead of telling her that I really thought her argument was rather sexy - which was what I had meant to say, I completely and humiliatingly flummoxed it completely.

Fast forward about five or six years, when I have been traveling for a while and had more than a little bit of experience with sex and exploring my sexuality under my belt.  I was falling in love on a regular basis, sometimes rather more intensely than others, never for very long.  I was still having a lot of trouble really understanding my emotions, though thankfully experience had taught me that I was unlikely to remain in love and I was rather upfront about my actual interest - generally sex and friendship.  That was, however, generally a lie - at least from my point of view early on.  I was desperately in love and would always be in love, at least for the next several hours - maybe a month or so.

Keep in mind that I was very introspective by this point in my life.  I had spent several years rather desperately wanting to die, which later settled into a feeling that while I didn't want to die persay, I would be rather pleased when I finally did.  I had created an entire version of reality for myself when I was nine or ten, to stop me from wanting to die so badly and to slow down my brain (though I didn't understand that at the time).  It was intricate and wonderful, until it completely shattered and I focused ever inward.  Focused on my emotions and my feelings and the developing DuWayne - who was starting to really get enthusiastic about sex and drugs.

I became huge on LSD, because rather than masking my emotions, it intensified them. It fucked things about in such a way that I could actually feel things that weren't intense - though I did tend towards rather a lot of anger.  Anger that I dulled with rather copious amounts of cannabis and alcohol - but that is another story altogether.  What I am getting at, is that in a lot of ways, I was very aware of my emotions.  Aware enough that I could be reasonably honest with women, even though what I actually felt contradicted me.  And I was reasonably self-aware - though I missed an entire line of feeling, in a fit of what can only be described as extreme denial.

Yet self-aware and emotionally aware as I was, I managed to end up in a really badly matched relationship for nearly ten years.

And as aware as I am now, I managed to rather seriously fuck up and hurt my partner - with whom I have the healthiest relationship I have ever experienced.  I am not alone in this.  While there are certainly men out there who are more emotionally competent than I am (many, many men), most are considerably worse.  Those who are considerably less fucked up than I, are less fucked up by a matter of degree.  They have generally bumbled through brutalizing incompetence to get there - often being scarred by bullshit as well, such as being labeled nonsexual "safe."

Saturday, July 31, 2010

My brain hurts, but we made it

I love the video screen and player.  Youngest was fucking perfectly behaved and Eldest actually spent well over half the drive up front, talking to me.  About the only downside, was that we spent roughly five and a half hours, watching about an  hour and a half of Dinosaur Train - or in the case of Eldest and me, listening to it.  We also spent about 60 miles of highway 127 in Ohio, arguing about whether we had gone this way ever before - which until today, the boys had never gone.

We are here, we just read Edward Fudwupper Fibbed Big and some Curious George.  And now Youngest has decided to play with his damnable dog, instead of sleeping.  Never mind getting up an hour early this morning and not getting a nap, he is just not big on sleep.

He has now started trying to sing along with the goodnight music, Mike Oldfield's Songs of Distant Earth.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The insanity that is DuWayne...Or "Superpapa"

I would just remind people reading this on blogger, that I am not going to be cross-posting here much longer.  My new address is over here and if you leave a comment, that is where they will be responded to.

I have now managed to get the flip down monitor installed and discovered that for the MP4s to play, I need to have them on a CD or DVD - for some reason they don't want to play off of USB.  Of course the reason I discovered that, was because the first couple of discs I had burnt wouldn't play.  So the discs wouldn't play, then I couldn't get them to play off the USB - I was starting to think that I would have to bring regular DVDs, of which there are few and sucky.  Then, in a fit of determination, I decided to try putting some on CD, to see if that might work.

Moments later, I felt like a complete and utter fucking moron.  When I had burned the first few discs, I had burned them in a "USB" format, rather than the format that makes it more likely it will play on other shit.  So now I am in business.  We have some Scooby Doo, some Diego, some Dinosaur train, some Wallace and Grommit and some Ben Ten Alien Force.  We also have almost the entire Walking With series - including Sea Monsters, and Cave Men.  We don't have the bit with the jackass who "goes back in time" though, because eldest thinks he's a lying idiot who thinks kids must be stupid.  We also have Sarah Jane Adventures and Roman Mysteries and some random documentaries.

So tomorrow I will drive ten hours down to Knoxville and then Saturday, I will drive back up here with the eight year old and the two year old.  And I will be making this run all by myself - with a little help from the kick-ass DVD, CD, mp3, mwa, mp4 player that I installed several weeks ago and the flip down monitor that I, unfortunately, put off until yesterday...Because I'm insane.  And because I was/am very busy with school and being depressed (though the latter does seem to be getting better).

Did I mention that I am going to be spending ten+ hours in a vehicle with an eight year old and a two year old?  Without another adult?  Fuck.

This is kind of my practice run for when we come to visit grandpa and grandma, after I move down there.  And then for the Big Drive, when we actually head back out to Portland.  But this is also going to be very, very interesting - as in a "living in interesting times" sort of interesting.  On the upside, I have slipped in some baby brother stuff, which should lure eight year old up front with me, where we can talk.  I don't think I am going to try to push the important discussion on him, though I might.  But it will be nice to have some time to talk, while Youngest watches Dino Train.  While in theory, Eldest doesn't like Diego, in practice he doesn't grumble while it is actually on. 

The other problem, is that I am sure that Eldest is going to insist on watching some Sarah Jane Adventures - he was pretty adamant that I burn some to disc for the trip.  This is really going to suck, as it will totally put me out of sync with what's going on, as I haven't been watching ahead of where Eldest is at.  Worse, I will be able to hear it and not see it.  While the latter is a very good thing, as I will be driving, the former is going to suck donkey balls.  Maybe I'll just tell him the discs didn't work for that one...

The science of the social sciences

I would just remind people reading this on blogger, that I am not going to be cross-posting here much longer.  My new address is over here and if you leave a comment, that is where they will be responded to.

There have been some discussions the past few days or so, about just how scientific the social sciences are. There was this discussion at Uncertain Principles, about psychology and the limitations of psychology studies. And there was this discussion at the Lousy Canuckistanian, about whether or not economics is really a science. The former discussion led to some rather strong hating on psychology in the comments, while the latter was infested by a pretentious fucking asshole who dismisses the social sciences as pseudoscience.

I am going to focus this on psychology and basically just post my response to the thread on Uncertain Principles, because that is my field and because for the moment I really don't have time to write a long post about this.  This can be easily generalized to the other social sciences.

I will just add up front, that one of the biggest problems with the social sciences, even more than the fact that people actually make real world decisions based on imperfect studies, is science journalism.  While not all science journalists are shit, Dirk Hanson is a fucking brilliant example of a good science writer, most of them are.  Those reporting on the social sciences aren't any different.  They misinterpret studies all the time.  They tout the results of extremely limited preliminary studies as though they can be generalized.  They fuck up our work, just like they fuck up everyone else's.  That isn't the fault of social science PI's or the various social sciences themselves, anymore than it is the fault of bio-med PI's or the bio-med fields who routinely get horribly misrepresented in the media.

Psychology has a long tradition of largely being a cult of personalities. While to some degree that is still the case, the personalities are the folks who really turned psychology into a hard science. And their results are constantly being challenged or pushed to the limits, to find the breaking points.

Every single psychology class I have taken now, has focused as much on science and the methods of science, as it has on the specific science we're talking about. And I have barely begun scratching the surface. Nor is my experience in the least bit unique, this is how psychology is being taught, because that is what psychologists do - science.

And there are a lot of us who are particularly keen on generalizing outside of Western undergrad populations. That is largely why I am focusing on evo-psych, which will (for me) mostly involve cross-cultural work that will focus on Eastern European and Asian populations (I hope and assuming my brain doesn't explode while learning Russian).

But even where we are seriously limited by biases, there is a lot of solid science being done. While a lot of studies use relatively small sample sizes, they are replicated several times over. It is kind of hard to conduct studies with massive sample sizes, when you have to invest several man hours into each subject. So you use the sample that is feasible and if the results are promising, you replicate it - along with several other investigators.

It is really, really irritating to listen to (or in this case read) people who have little to no clue what is actually happening, expound on the junkiness of the science. The human brain and all the influences on human behavior are exceedingly complicated. Kind of like physics is complicated, or genetics is complicated or cosmology is complicated. Like the science being done in those fields, we break things down as much as is feasible and investigate each bit as best we can. As we reach verifiable, quantifiable conclusions, they become part of the larger picture that is "what we know," or more accurately is, "what we are pretty sure we know."
For psychology, it is complicated by the same major problem that medicine has to deal with - we need to treat real human beings with the best tools we have, regardless of what we actually know. We don't have the luxury of perfecting anything, before we try to help people. There are people who need help, regardless of how well prepared we are.

So we muddle along, because someone who's anorexic, isn't likely to live long enough for us to perfect their treatment. Someone who has absolutely no control over their drinking, their snorting, their smoking or their shooting, doesn't have the luxury of waiting until we're sure we have it down. Especially as addiction has a hell of a lot of causes. Like cancer, we're talking about an array of illnesses - not some singular entity. And that is exactly the case for a great many mental illnesses, as we have been learning through cognitive studies and neurological studies.

But we are most certainly not engaged in pseudoscience. If you honestly want to use that word, then you need to figure out what the hell you're actually talking about beforehand.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Problems with parenting from a distance

I would just remind people reading this on blogger, that I am not going to be cross-posting here much longer.  My new address is over here and if you leave a comment, that is where they will be responded to.

With a great deal of excitement, I am trying to finish up as much of my classwork as I can and get everything ready to go pick up the boys this weekend.  I will only have them for a week and unfortunately it is the week that ends the summer semester, but that is just how it goes.  I have to honestly say though, that I am really not looking forward to having a rather complicated discussion with eldest.

This is not because the conversation is overly intimidating.  While it is a little bit, that doesn't bother me, especially as I have a pretty solid grasp on how such a conversation should go.  What is less than thrilling about it, is that the timing is off.  Eldest has recently been having a lot of emotional difficulties lately - has actually been having them for a while, but more recently they have become rather more frequent and have been coming at a point where he is more cognizant of them.

Unfortunately, he is also very confused by them.  Take a discussion we had a couple weeks ago:

Me:  How are you doing today?

Eldest: I'm having a bad day papa.

Me: Are you feeling sick?

Eldest: No, I don't think I feel sick.

Me:  Did you get in trouble this morning?

Eldest: No, I'm just really upset right now.

Me: What are you upset about?

Eldest:  Nothing really, I'm just upset.

Me: Are you angry upset, or sad upset?

Eldest: I forgot.

Me: Are you feeling better now then?

Eldest: No, I'm still really upset, I just don't remember if I'm mad or sad.

That was pretty much that discussion, because he had to get ready to do something with momma and youngest.  And it was most definitely not a satisfactory discussion.  Even had we been able to continue, it is really hard to discuss emotions over the phone like that.  It's hard enough with adults who, for example, might call a crisis hotline.  It is really hard when the person you are talking to is eight years old.  It's hard for him, because he needs that responsive body language and because he's talking to his dad, it is a lot easier if there is physical contact.  And it is hard for me, because without seeing his responsive body language, I am entirely dependent on his words to break it down.  Definitely not the ideal.

Of course the other problem, is that he doesn't want to spend what time he has talking to me, talking about being upset.  He wants to hear how I am doing, how school is going and what I am working on.  He wants to tell me about what he is doing, or just did, or what new and exciting invention he really wants to make.  He wants me to read to him or tell him a story about when I was an eight year old - or a story about when he was a baby.  He wants me to explain something to him, that he is wondering about - wishing, if looking it up is necessary, that he could snuggle up to me and look it up with me.

The problem with having this conversation this next week, is that it is unlikely to happen when he is actually feeling upset.  He is barely able to contain his excitement when we talk on the phone at this point.  He is very unlikely to have any significant episodes of being upset, at least not early in the week.  And later, when he is feeling upset, knowing he will have to go back to TN before very long, he is not going to have any confusion about sad or mad.  When there is a palpable, concrete reason for him to be upset, he has no problem distinguishing - mainly because context makes it pretty clear.  So that won't help us in the context of having this discussion.

That is the crux of the problem.  These are conversations that really need to happen in the moment.  It is a lot like punishing a child for misbehavior, several hours after they misbehave.  It is pretty ineffectual and takes a lot of work to make it work.  Even then there are no guarantees.  About the only thing that I have going for me here, is that eldest has been talking about this issue with his therapist.  So we will have at least something to work from, tenuous as that will be.  But any which way we look at it, it is not going to be easy to deal with.  While I am no stranger to having complicated and difficult discussions with eldest, until he was taken 600 miles away, I was always able to deal with complicated discussions at, or close to the time they were relevant. 

This is important and it is coming at a time when I am not in the best form for dealing with it.  As eldest has grown, he has been inexorably moving away from being quite the momma's boy he once was, to increasingly looking to me for certain types of support.  That isn't to say that he is ignoring his mother altogether, just that he seems to be thinking that a lot of problems should be dealt with by me.  While I doubt he will ever be focused on gender the way most boys were when I was growing up, he has definitely become increasingly aware of it - and increasingly focused on me for emotional support and for understanding his emotions.

Ironically, I have been dealing with a severe bout of depression (when overall, life is actually pretty fucking good) and a new medication and don't have the best grasp on my own emotional content at the moment.  But that doesn't matter in the scheme of things, because kids can't wait for their parents to be ready to help them face their problems.  They need us when they need us - and that is that.  That is also probably why we fuck up so often, we don't have the luxury of waiting until we've got it all figured out, or we're feeling up to the task.  Thankfully, unless we really try, most kids are resilient enough to survive our fuckups and work it out in the end.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Ethics of the Animal Rights Movement, Part One

I am now heavy into the research for my paper on the AR extremist movement and can't help but be very concerned and saddened by what I am finding.  At the moment, I am still rather stunned.  I actually had to take a break, because this just really blew me away.  A young man with a history of mental illness and suicide attempts, doused himself with gasoline and set fire to himself, outside a Portland, OR fur store, this past January.  It is clear from what I could gather that this young man wanted to die for what are likely many reasons.  There is no question that his suicide was not primarily motivated by his animal rights beliefs.

Yet the ALF pressoffice includes his story in their media links.  It can also be found on some other sites around the webs.  But what the local AR extremists did on the heels of this sad affair is unconscionable.  The following is an email received by KATU, channel 2 in Portland;
The Portland Anti Fur Campaign was just alerted to the action outside Nicholas Ungar Furs earlier today [Wednesday].

We do not know who this person was nor do we know what his intentions were. If his intentions were to raise awareness of unnecessary animal suffering and killing done in the fur industry, and by businesses like Ungar Furs, then we wish him well.

We are not saying that we want people to light themselves on fire and run into fur shops, but we do understand that sometimes you have to make noise and make a scene to stand up for the animals. It is really unfortunate that one would feel as if they must take such drastic measures, yet, this Fur Store has continued their bloody business despite protests outside for 3 years now.

If the person's motivation was to bring media attention to the issue, they obviously achieved their goal.

Raise your fist, and your voice, Fox and Mink have no Choice!
 Any sane organization would have, if anything, soundly condemned Daniel Shaull's suicide as being tragically misguided.  Were the ALF press office sane, rather than throwing this into the mix without comment, they would have made it clear that anyone feeling the urge to commit an act such as this should seek help.  But these are not sane people.  Not by any stretch of the imagination.  The following is the introduction to this video of Steven Best, that I have linked to before:
There's a new civil war unfolding in this country, a new civil war. And it's a war that's unfolding about and around the politics of nature. And on one side, there are people who are exploiting the earth, and who are destroying the lives of animals by the billions. And they are prepared to defend their interest, their alleged rights. On the other side, are people like us and our fellow activists. People who are willing to escalate the struggle, to whatever extent is necessary. And when there is a war, as a war is brewing now about the politics of nature, that means the gloves are coming off.
There is also this essay by Best:
Realizing that nonviolence against animal exploiters in fact is a pro-violence stance that tolerates their blood-spilling without taking adequate measures to stop it, a new breed of freedom fighters has ditched Gandhi for Machiavelli and switched principled nonviolence with the amoral (not to be confused with immoral) pragmatism that embraces animal liberation “by any means necessary.
Or at the last link Best quotes a Communiqué from the Revolutionary Cells Animal Liberation Brigade after the 2003 bombings of Chiron and Shaklee Corporations:
We have given all of the collaborators a chance to withdraw from their relations [with Huntingdon Life Sciences]. We will now be doubling the size of every device we make. Today it is 10 lbs, tomorrow 20....until your buildings are nothing more than rubble. It is time for this war to truly have two sides. No more will all of the killing be done by the oppressors, now the oppressed will strike back. We will be non-violent when these people are non-violent to the animal nations.
What is very important to recognize here, is that while there is insanity in the movement, these people aren't stupid. Nor are these people any different than extremists and terrorists who kill in the name of a god.  The only reason that people have yet to be killed, is because of the fortitude of the young men and women who listen to Steven Best and his ilk and commit terrorist acts.  But how long is that going to last, with Best, Vlasac and a host of activists ramping up the rhetoric of escalation?

Monday, July 26, 2010

I am moving this blog - and recruiting bloggers

I will continue to post here for the time being, but posts here will be crossposted to my new address, on my own domain - here.  I am both interested in using WordPress, because it seems a bit more versatile and more importantly, because I am going to be using it as the mainpage for the addiction site and forum I am setting up.  It turns out that WP also offers a forum platform that integrates and the WP platform is just about perfect for an easy to manage main page.

I want to move to my own domain, on the other hand, because - well first off, because I have the fucking thing and might as well use it.  I am also moving over there, because I would like to see if I can convince some other sporadic bloggers - or people who don't blog at all, to wander over there as well.  WP makes it very easy to set up an aggregator main blog that will post everything - or select posts, from all the blogs you want it to.  I would like to create a aggregator for other people who primarily write about cultural issues, psychology, sociology, anthropology - who just don't post all that often.  That listing would include social issue as well - religion, sexuality (non-porn) - there is a lot of room to work here.

I will warn that I am not going to be spending much time fucking around with this.  I intend to set it up - possibly with help, though WP makes things pretty damned easy - add blogs when they come up and let it be.  I may throw adsense or somesuch nonsense, I am not really sure.  I won't require or disallow ads on the blogs who choose to join - I really don't care.  I also don't expect anyone to restrict their blogging to a given topic.  I may not even stick very firmly to the theme at all - we'll just have to see.  I don't care whether or not bloggers who might join agree with me on much of anything - there will always be disagreement somewhere.

About the only thing I might do, if it is an issue that discourages people, is to try to keep profanity off the aggregator blog.  Comments will not be posted on the aggregator - if posts are set below a fold, clicking on it will take the reader to that blog - so will clicking on comments.  There will probably be a feed of comments from all the blogs, there will definitely be an all inclusive archival listing.  The idea is not to keep readers stuck on the aggregator, it is to direct the traffic to individual blogs from there.

I would note that I am very keen on encouraging people who are prolific commenters, people who really should have their own blogs, to join.  Seriously.  It is really easy to set up a WP blog - all you need to do is email me with a name - or the desire for a name.  I will cut you in a URL on my domain with a basic WP body and give you the generic username and password, that you can change at your leisure.  It takes mere minutes and you can be up and running.

Moving a blog over there is also really easy.  I can do the same as above, adding a plugin to transfer your blog.  All you do then, is input your URL, username and password.  Depending on the amount to be transferred, you should be all moved over in five, to fifteen minutes.

On the very off chance that there is some sort of overwhelming response to this, I need to be clear that I have limited time and will probably end up taking some time to get to it all - or I may seek someone to give me a hand getting it all together.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

What I love about Keats

When I first left home and went on the road, one of the few books I took with me that actually stayed with me for an extended period, was a book of romance poets.  Not just a book of poetry, but one that included correspondence.  I am not sure what made me fall in love with this beaten young poet more, his poetry or his letters.

Then I was given a biography of Keats.

I wondered sometimes, if I would survive to see 26.  I also wondered that the youngest of the Romance poets was the youngest to die, having achieved immortality at such a young age.  An immortality that I desperately wanted, almost as much a I wanted to die.  Not that I really understood then, just how much I wanted to die.  It didn't even occur to me that I was suicidal, when I made such suicidal moves as pounding down a couple of fifths and other random booze, in little more than an hour.  Or that given the opportunity, I would do things like increasing my dosage of acid on a daily basis, for as much as 40 odd days - hitchhiking up to the end.

I fell in love with Keats, because I fell in love with words and the impact that words could have on others.  At poetry slams, I could stumble up to the stage and make everyone roll with laughter, if I wanted.  Or drunk as can be, I could invoke intense sorrow - me nineteen and much of the crowd twice my years.  All I had to do was open my mouth and let them flow, I never needed to read, because I just let it fly.  Fleeting, temporary arrangements of words - enjoyed, then forgotten.  I would throw myself out there, naked (occasionally literally), selfless - giving all that I had, because I was desperate for that intimate contact, me and that hundred or so people, every one of them my lover for those fleeting moments of rampant exhibitionism.

I fell in love with Keats, because I wanted to be Keats - I wanted to evoke contradictory emotions and incompatible imagery and make it all work.  I wanted to see them slam into each other in a frenzied abandoned, fucking for all their worth, or sometimes bring them together in measured, even lovemaking.  I wanted to express my awe at the beauty of my world and my fellow humans, while also striking out in rage - to express my passionate, naive love and brutal hatred.  I saw the world, see the world, much like Keats did, appreciating the often excruciating beauty - at the same time, robed in sorrow and anger at the complete and utter fucking stupidity.

I fell in love with Keats, because sometimes I could almost see him at the end.  See him literally hacking up his lungs, his sheets covered in blood.  See him dying in rage and sorrow and finally deciding to end it.  I would inhabit the body of Joseph Severn and tenderly care for my dear, dying friend - sometimes I would be Keats himself, especially when I was sick.  But mostly I wished I could care for him, wished I could have been a part of those times - much like I wish sometimes, I could have been a part of the Chelsea hotel set.  Except that was before free form verse was even heard of, and I don't think I could live without my freeform verse.

Rhyme and meter is for music.

I fell in love with Keats, because even within the strictures of poetry of the day, he was a remarkable wordsmith.  A man who could write about anything and make it beautiful - even nearly two centuries later.  A man who, though his name was writ on water, has been a very dear friend to me and who will probably be making friends two more centuries along.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Hmmm...Not sure about all this now...

Things are definitely not going well for me at the moment.  I feel like crap and the new meds are making it rather worse, though I am definitely going to give them more time.  Now I am depressed and feeling rather ill.  Having an even worse time focusing on the ginormous paper and not really wanting to be out of bed. 

Not that I was doing all that grandly before.

I am also considering moving my blog to my own domain and using wordpress - though apparently wordpress also has the problem of holding spaces at the beginning of lines.  But still - I am getting rather irritated with blogger.  I don't know, I will just have to see.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Random Poetry: Keats

Ode To A Nightengale

MY heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:
'Tis not through envy of thy happy lot, 5
But being too happy in thine happiness,
That thou, light-wingèd Dryad of the trees,
In some melodious plot
Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,
Singest of summer in full-throated ease. 10

O for a draught of vintage! that hath been
Cool'd a long age in the deep-delvèd earth,
Tasting of Flora and the country-green,
Dance, and Provençal song, and sunburnt mirth!
O for a beaker full of the warm South! 15
Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,
With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,
And purple-stainèd mouth;
That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,
And with thee fade away into the forest dim: 20

Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget
What thou among the leaves hast never known,
The weariness, the fever, and the fret
Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;
Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last grey hairs, 25
Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies;
Where but to think is to be full of sorrow
And leaden-eyed despairs;
Where beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,
Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow. 30

Away! away! for I will fly to thee,
Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards,
But on the viewless wings of Poesy,
Though the dull brain perplexes and retards:
Already with thee! tender is the night, 35
And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne,
Cluster'd around by all her starry Fays
But here there is no light,
Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown
Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways. 40

I cannot see what flowers are at my feet,
Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs,
But, in embalmèd darkness, guess each sweet
Wherewith the seasonable month endows
The grass, the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild; 45
White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine;
Fast-fading violets cover'd up in leaves;
And mid-May's eldest child,
The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine,
The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves. 50

Darkling I listen; and, for many a time
I have been half in love with easeful Death,
Call'd him soft names in many a musèd rhyme,
To take into the air my quiet breath;
Now more than ever seems it rich to die, 55
To cease upon the midnight with no pain,
While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad
In such an ecstasy!
Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain—
To thy high requiem become a sod. 60

Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!
No hungry generations tread thee down;
The voice I hear this passing night was heard
In ancient days by emperor and clown:
Perhaps the self-same song that found a path 65
Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,
She stood in tears amid the alien corn;
The same that ofttimes hath
Charm'd magic casements, opening on the foam
Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn. 70

Forlorn! the very word is like a bell
To toll me back from thee to my sole self!
Adieu! the fancy cannot cheat so well
As she is famed to do, deceiving elf.
Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades 75
Past the near meadows, over the still stream,
Up the hill-side; and now 'tis buried deep
In the next valley-glades:
Was it a vision, or a waking dream?
Fled is that music:—do I wake or sleep? 80

circa 4/26/1818 - 5/18/1818 - John Keats

Motherfucking Blogger Sux Balls. I am going to be leaving here, as soon as I can figure out how to move everything. Not being able to keep the actual spacing of fucking poetry is the last straw. I am over it.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Dissappearance, or an attempt therein and World Security

I am hitting on the final stretch of the summer semester and have a fuckton of writing left to finish. Nominally, the book response paper is due a week from yesterday, the term paper being due on the sixth of August. Except life is more complicated than that and I am heading down next weekend to get the boys for a week.

So I really need to try to get this fucking term paper done by next weekend, clean my space and install a fold down monitor in my van (I already installed my DVD, USB, SD - MP3, MP4, MPEG playing dashmount stereo). At least I have made the book response paper easier, as I will be addressing (relatively) unique points in each essay - following it up with a 16-20 page response to three specific points that are of extreme underlying importance through the book.

First, I will be dealing with a dominant (in scholarly analysis) post-Cold War paradigm. Namely that the Cold War was a major engine for stability and that the post Cold War world has become inherently unstable. Even when one accepts that these essays were published in 1998, when there was some serious instability in some former Soviet states, they are both overstating the case for the stability of the Cold War era and overstating the case for significantly more instability after the Cold War. This is problematic, because you see a lot of the reasoning the stems from this paradigm in foreign policy decisions today.

Second, while credit is definitely given, there is serious understatement to the impact of technological breakthroughs on global politics and the weakening of nation states. I will argue that not only is communications technology a critical factor, but the medium itself is an engine for instability. Ie. technological development has far outstripped our ability to functionally integrate it and understand the implications - thus creating inherent instability. If I can, I will also address transnational tribalism.

Finally, I am going to address something that seems conspicuous in it's absence: The reaction of major powers to the weakening of nation states, as a threat to world security. While again, I can appreciate that this book of essays was published in 1998, at least some of what has happened was predictable in general terms. While the exact circumstances might have been unclear, it should be no shock that we invaded Afghanistan and Iraq. If it hadn't been that, it would have been something else - possibly something even more dangerous and destabilizing. While the end of Soviet communism and nuclear deescalation treaties created some thawing, by no means did they spell cordial relations between Russia and the U.S.

What is important to recognize, is that contrary to popular theories, put forth by esteemed scholars (in this case, Dr. James Rosenau), the end of the Cold War wasn't the cause of any significant instability. The roots of the weakening nation state, global terrorism and environmental concerns (the major problems with global security at this point) are deeply seeded in globalization and the rapid developments in communications technology. These have only tangential relations to the Cold War. Technological development was somewhat driven by the Cold War and globalization was in some cases happening in spite of the Cold War, while in other sectors it was completely driven by the Cold War.

When I get that finished, I will focus on the fucking animal rights terrorists and their intellectual cheerleaders, as well as their "spiritual" leadership. The topic of my term paper is the relation of postmodern extremist movements, to religious extremist movements and global terrorism.

In any case, I have a fuckton of work to do, over the next ten days. If you happen to see me where I shouldn't be - like commenting on blogs - feel free to chastise me.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Costco to the rescue...

Things have not been nearly what they should be emotionally lately, as I seem to be on a roller coaster again. I will grant though, that it is sort of a small child version, rather than the rather hardcore coaster I was on before getting on meds. In particular I have been getting hit with rather serious depression that is punctuated by rather giddy upswings. Not particularly happy upswings mind, more like my typical form of manic, anxious, sad bemusement.

My doctor upped my dosage of Clonidine last month and increased my supply of Xanax, in the hope that getting more sleep would help level things out. I can't say that getting a little more sleep - not so much in the way of hours, but more in the sense of helping me stay asleep - but it didn't really stabilize things. Today was my one month follow up to changing dosages.

So now I am going to try Lamictal. I am a little nervous about it, because I definitely can't afford to be slowed down too much. At the same time, I really need to be able to focus better on school. I am not getting behind at this point, but I am also not managing to stay ahead. Staying ahead has been critically important to me, because when I do, I don't get caught up too badly at the end of the semester, when things suddenly pile up the way they do in a lot of classes.

When I stopped into WalMart to fill my scripts, I found that Lamictal at this dose would cost $83 a month - and if it works, the dosage will go up. Then I decided to call Costco, where I fill my Welbutrin and like the Welbutrin, they can beat the hell out of WalMart. Mind you, they can't beat WalMart for anything else - the difference for the rest of my scripts is nearly $50. But for the Lamictal they will charge $21 - more than $60 savings and about a quarter of the cost at WalMart. And of course the Welbutrin is more than a $100 cheaper at Costco.

So now I am off to Grand Rapids - the only inconvenience in the process, as it is about an hour away. Given the shit I need to get done today, this will rather fuck up my day a bit - but I suppose I will get there. It has just been rather slow going through this damned book response. Of course, it may well help to get going on this new med, so there it is.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Random Poetry: Exhibitionist

Naked, again and again, here I am again
In all my ugly, complicated beauty

Fuck you, for hating everything about me, for
Everything I have been, or ever will be

How many times must I bleed for your pleasure,
Over and over, glory at the living, sinning

Alone here in the darkness, I revel in your
Your penetrating presence, overwhelming me

Naked again, doesn't mean I am here to fuck, I
The implication, drawing your body tight against me

June 6th, 2010

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The sort of shit I have to read...Update...Again

I have to admit that the majority of essays in my world security book are actually quite reasonable. But occasionally they are rife with the stupid the influence of the dominant post-Cold War historical paradigm.

Just how fucking stupid esteemed in international studies do you have to be, to assert that the Cold War was an engine for global stability? I mean I suppose if you lived in the West it was, but outside the West the world was a mishmash of proxy wars and covert interference with the governments of sovereign nations.

And did you know that governments are weaker now? Shocked! I am bloody well shocked I tell you. I hadn't noticed this phenom when we decided to invade not one, but two fucking countries. I also totally missed it when our economy collapsed and then entered a jobless recovery.

But the important and difficult question of the day is:

"...How do we account for the accelerating pace of change?"


For the record, it is getting even fucking dumber more enlightened than before. What smoking immense amounts of pot failed to achieve, I am pretty sure this essay is managing. I think I may actually become a little less clever than before reading this shit brilliant example of post-Cold War reasoning.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Another trip to see the boys

Having spent the weekend with the boys, I am completely exhausted. Not having more than as weekend each month to come see them, it is hard not to spend every waking moment possible, focused on them. Which really sucks, because it means that I don't get to spend “normal” family time with them – getting completely wiped aside. Being able to talk to them daily helps, but only so much. Spontaneous discussion of whatever topic happens to be spinning in those little developing brains is half-hazard at best.

But we had fun to say the least. Youngest was his shining, cantankerous little self. He's really getting keen on using his growing, but still sharply limited vocabulary, creating so many more opportunities for the self-righteous indignation of cranky old men. And eldest is really coming into his own now, pressing his neurological tendrils into mid-childhood, despite the many conflicts and instabilities he has faced in his eight short years. It is both sad, but also exciting to catch glimpses of the man he is trying to become.

Parenting from nearly six hundred miles away really sucks. It isn't just the pain of a papa who doesn't get to hug and kiss his boys every night – or even every week. It isn't just the pain of knowing that two boys who have no say in the matter, no control over the situation, really miss their papa so very badly. It isn't even the pain of missing so many exciting ideas and developmental stages. It really sucks to have every visit with them tainted by the sadness that in X number of hours, papa is going to get back in the car and head back along that six hundred mile journey – no more hugs and kisses until next months visit.

It is what it is though. And though it is still some months off, my time for moving down here fast approaches. As it approaches, we are figuring out some of the exciting things we will do to make our time here more interesting and worthwhile. Before we move back to Portland, there are a great many opportunities to take advantage of here – including very inexpensive options for horseback riding lessons for eldest. Things that we can do together to enrich all three of our lives, such as long hikes in the Smoky's and science oriented venues galore – not to mention a zoo membership that costs less than two visits.

In some regards I am actually looking forward to spending some time in Knoxville. There are a lot of excellent and exciting things to explore and science is a big deal down there, thanks to Oak Ridge National Labs and the industry science that has sprung up around it. I am definitely keen to get out to Portland, but will definitely take advantage of what our temporary home has to offer. Including, in a state where religious diversity is what brand of Christian you might be and atheist is a four letter word, a thriving skeptical community.

But all that is still some months off. I am back in Michigan now and very sad. I can almost feel those tiny arms around my neck, hear the frustration of my small son as he struggles to express himself clearly with his words. I can almost see my eldest sitting next to me in the van, talking about the inventions he wants to make, the things he wants us to do and what we might do to get him out of the special school. I am so fucking tired of helplessly trying to effectively parent from six hundred miles away. I am so very tired of my children's frustration at being so sharply limited in what we can do together.

This is especially problematic for eldest, who is used to being able to engage in all sorts of fun and interesting projects with me. We like being able to build stuff together, put together projects together – look up and learn stuff together. This has been a very important part of our relationship in the past - indeed when he was younger, it was a very significant portion of the time we spent together. I was working a lot and so much of our time was spent on the job (he first came to work with me when appropriate at age two) or working on our house as an exchange for rent. And youngest is getting to an age where he can partake in some of the fun.

I will continue this discussion later and intend to continue with this theme. I am really rather keen on writing more about some of the personal issues that I have let fall to the wayside. But I will probably focus this, as much as possible on single parenting – for the moment from a distance. I have rather enjoyed some of the fathering posts of other bloggers and would like to contribute some of my own. While mine will occasionally be rather dark, like this one, I am going to make sure that I intersperse them with fun posts too.

My kids are wonderful, bright and exciting people. What they have done for my life is incomprehensible to me sometimes. I am extremely lucky to have such awesome people in my life and even luckier that they are my kids.

Another spate of Tropane related ER visits, and my experience with the Datura family

Edited and added to, after my initial writing in the middle of the night after driving six hundred miles. Updated - A friend who used to cultivate hallucinogenic plants emailed me after reading this post to tell me that Brugmansia was one of the plants he grew. He wasn't certain I had used it, but pointed out that I used pretty much all the plants he grew.

Abel Pharmboy has a post up, about a spate of ER visits due to Angel's Trumpet (Brugmansia). The Brugmansia genus is a close relative of the Datura (deadly nightshade) genus, both being part of the Solanaceae family. These plants contain atropine and scopolamine, which combined in these plants are sometimes commonly called daturine or Tropane. A commenter on Abel's post mentioned that there is a narrow window between a recreational dose and a fatal dose.

I have some fairly extensive experience with the Datura genus and people, especially young people + Tropane plants is very frightening. I have used Belladona, Jimson weed seeds, Henbane and Mandrake - the Belladonna most frequently, Henbane only once. To say the window between a recreational dose and a fatal dose is narrow, is putting it mildly.

The biggest problem is that a person's metabolism, weight and several general health factors are extremely important to both how much one needs to have the hallucinogenic experience that is expected and how much is a fatal dose - with some people having no separation between the two. People who have a slower metabolism are likely to need less and will have a lower threshold for a fatal dose. Someone who is overweight might not have a hallucinogenic experience at a lower dose and may not be able to handle a high enough dose. In most cases, people need to understand that even having a "successful" experience is likely to entail rather extreme discomfort and some serious health risks.

The last time I ended up drinking Jimson weed seed tea, for example, a person who took half what I did ended up hospitalized and (apparently) almost died. I almost died too, but that was a result of something I did as a result of the tea, not as a direct result - though I did drink nearly a gallon of gatorade, over about eleven hours after drinking the tea.*

Belladonna is even worse, because the baseline dose is so very small. Thankfully it is not easy to find in the U.S., as it isn't a native species. Though of course it is easy enough to cultivate and seeds aren't very difficult to come by - that would be why I was able to use it relatively frequently, over the course of a few years. It was rather nasty in retrospect, as it didn't cause an overt "high" and the effects lasted for weeks. Characteristic was having conversations with people who weren't actually there - they would appear, chat for a while and disappear. Both the appearance and disappearance would be abrupt, but seem perfectly normal - after a while I was cognizant of what was happening and simply believed that I was talking to "spirits." I never had serious complications with it, but was also very careful about companionship (read; babysitters) for the initial experience which would include experiencing hallucinations that were indistinguishable from reality. Without someone to keep track, I could easily have done very dangerous things - completely unaware of where I actually was.

This is really the most dangerous aspect of using tropane plants - the hallucinations are completely indistinguishable from reality. With some you get a definite "high" with the experience, but the actual hallucinations are exceptionally "real." They also usually encompass all of reality - everything you are experiencing, or most of it, may be a hallucination. You might be laying in or even restrained to a bed in reality, while what you are experiencing involves being somewhere completely different, in situations that seem entirely real. Even when they are patently absurd. An excellent example of that (beyond conversations with abruptly appearing and disappearing conversational partners) was "smoking" while on Jimson weed.

The last time I would roll my cigarette, smoke it - managing to smoke them down to the barest butt without burning my fingers, then having the butt completely disappear. I actually smoked more than normal that night, though not significantly more than I normally would under the influence of a moderately powerful, to powerful hallucinogen. When I was actually cognizant of reality again, I discovered that the pouch of tobacco I had bought the previous night remained unopened. Mind you, the whole smoking experience seemed entirely normal - I was mildly curious where the hell my butts were disappearing to, but not the least bit alarmed or surprised by their disappearance.

There was also the bonfire and the cops issue the initial night I drank the tea. We really did have a bonfire (which I was actually locked away from), but at some point I looked out the window and saw three police cars - lights flashing - driving into the bonfire, like they were trying to plow it under. Not realizing that I couldn't get outside if I wanted to, I got all panicked because I had lost my pants and someone needed to deal with the cops. I got downright pissed at my roommate, who also owned the farm, because he refused to go deal with the cops and was getting upset with me for yelling about them.

I later opened the door to the woodburning stove, with the catalytic converter closed. When my roomie woke up to the smoke and closed it, I was turning blue and barely breathing. He had already bungee strapped me to the bed - after that he used duct tape and large zip ties to strap me directly to the futon frame.

The only other time I used Jimson weed, it is mostly unknown what happened, as I accidentally slipped my sitters. I managed to escape through a second story window onto a porch roof, wandering west county St. Louis. I was completely naked when I left - I was wearing a strange sport jacket and shorts, when my friends picked me up about 38 hours later. I know what I thought was happening to me in that time - but no idea what actually happened. I was twenty seven miles away from the house I left, having likely gone through mostly rural, wooded terrain. I was severely dehydrated when my friends got me (I was taken in by a farmer, who allowed me to use his phone when I knocked on his door - I was mostly cognizant, but still seriously fucked up at that point) and suffered extremely nasty flu like symptoms soon after - likely from drinking water that wasn't particularly clean. I was also covered in cuts and bruises, two of the cuts being relatively nasty - though I hadn't lost a dangerous amount of blood.

In both cases, time dilation was also an issue. The first time I experienced roughly four days, in forty-seven hours. The last time, I experienced nearly a week in about eleven hours.

I had most of these experiences under controlled, safe conditions - at least as safe as taking shit that is that toxic can be. I was very aware of what I was doing and had a relatively reasonable idea what sorts of doses would be safe for me. Even with the best controls I or others could work out in place, I nearly died several times** when using plants in the Datura family. This is actually true of several other plants I used - some rather less safely than others. These plants and many other enthogens are, or can be very dangerous.

If you are considering fooling around with Tropane plants, please don't. These aren't something to do for fun and honestly, they aren't "fun" in the context of recreational drug use. If you are looking for fun and feel you must use hallucinogens, you might explore psilocybin mushrooms. Note that I am not encouraging anyone to use any hallucinogen. Having rather extensive experience with great many hallucinogens, I am very familiar with potential problems. Most of the problems with mushrooms or acid tend to occur infrequently. The problem is that some of those potential problems can be quite serious.

I am sure that if you're a U.S. American under the age of forty or so, you probably went through some sort of propagandizing about drugs - maybe you even went through DARE. They probably talked about the horrible things that will happen to you, if you use acid or mushrooms. What they probably didn't explain is that while going nuts isn't inevitable, it is entirely possible. While we don't understand the mechanisms behind a lot of neurological problems, such as schizophrenia or affective mood disorders such as bipolar, we can make some assumptions. One of those assumptions is that however a predisposition (susceptibility to) for such mental problems might occur (biological v. environment), something very likely has to occur to trigger that predisposition before a person actually becomes mentally ill. Hallucinogens are a very plausible trigger - even acid and psilocybin mushrooms.

The other problem, one that is common to all hallucinogens, are the things that can happen to you because you are on something that significantly reduces your control over, and even your perception of reality. It can become much easier for someone to take advantage of you. It is also possible to simply do really stupid, dangerous things. Some of the things that I have personally done on acid or mushrooms include: climbing trees and falling out, riding a bicycle and crashing into parked cars - also nearly getting hit by moving cars, trying to drive once, falling out of what was thankfully a first story window - the possibilities are pretty endless.

It is really easy to assume that it just can't happen to you. It is also generally desirable to think that it won't, because you only want to be special, or different in "good" ways. Unfortunately, there is no way to tell you have the predisposition for certain neurological disorders until you become symptomatic. Given our poor understanding of these problems, it is also possible that acid and mushrooms might cause psychosis in people who don't have a typical predisposition - it may be that there is something else going on in the brain that acid and psilocybin can affect.

A lot of us have a hard time with the nature of statistics and probability. We see something described as being less than ten percent and we want to assume that means it is rare. When we see things described as being less than one percent, we want to assume that means it is nearly impossible for it to happen to us. The problem with that thinking is that while those percentages may be small, it is entirely possible that you or me will be in that one tenth of one percent. After all, even at those odds, it is likely to have happened to someone you were in school with. There were more than three thousand students in my high school, so one tenth of one percent = at least three people I was in school with. One in a thousand means that more than 323 people in the greater Kalamazoo-Portage metro area, where I live, would be affected.

I am not going to pretend that if you use acid or mushrooms, it is extremely likely that something horrible will happen to you - I just want to make you aware of the risks - of the nature of those risks. I don't want you to use these drugs, because I really don't believe the risks involved are worth it. But if you are absolutely bent on using some sort of hallucinogen, I hope that you won't use anything except for acid, psilocyban mushrooms or possibly Salvia. Even then I would strongly recommend that you have someone sober around to help make sure that you are safe, while using hallucinogens. Preferably someone who isn't afraid to get you medical attention should you need it and who is capable of telling whether that is the appropriate response to a given situation.

I would also suggest that if you are going to use any enthogens, that you scroll down my sidebar and check out information about that drug on Erowid and the Lycaeum - MAPS is another good resource. Read about what others have experienced and about the pros and cons of a given substance. But also be very aware that what others experience may not be your experience. And also keep in mind that most of the people who write about their experience are the ones who had a positive experience - or relatively positive experience. People who had a particularly bad experience are far less likely to write about it.

Finally, please keep in mind that there is seriously important neurological development going on until you are somewhere in the range of 22, to 26 years old. The substances you use before that development is complete may have a significant and permanent effect on your brain. Even after that initial development period is over, our brains are still changing and shaping around our experiences and choices. The brain is harder to shape as we get older, but it is still changeable - even permanently so.

* A characteristic of Jimson weed use is extreme dehydration as well as a shut-down of the urinary tract - I got a kidney infection my first time.
** This would be indicative of the sort of behavior I am talking about when it comes to hallucinogens being a serious substance of abuse for me.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

WTF Kids Toys!?!?

Why the hell is it that the only "boy" oriented easy bake bullshit is this crap? Why is it that this is referred to as "girl" gourmet? Keeping in mind that the baking pro on the box is a man, because of course there aren't any women who are professional bakers to endorse a "girl" toy. There are also these products, but they seem to be the limit of non-sexed baking toys.

Like boys have no desire to make nice, normal baked goods. Like women aren't professional fucking bakers.

Meanwhile, why the hell is my cantankerous two year old yelling at me, apparently wanting fish?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Journal Search...Terrorism and Political Violence

I am looking for someone, anyone, who has access to the journal Terrorism and Political Violence. If you have access to this journal, please shoot me an email. I am working on a paper about animal rights and eco terrorists. I can access the hard copy of one of the articles, but would really like to get an e-copy for citations and find two other articles that aren't available in hard copy.

When I am done with the paper and it has been graded, I will post the full text here and the formatted paper with biblio in google docs. I should also note that in about a week, I will start posting some of my creative writing from this semester as well.

I imagine that as I am working on my world security term paper, I will also probably be posting about the ALF, the ELF and postmodern religioideology. The premise I am working from, is that postmodern philosophies, taken to an extreme, are virtually indistinguishable from religious extremism. I will provide evidence that indicates that the motivations of postmodern terrorists are no different from religious terrorists.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

What the hell can you say about this?

Found this on my brother's blog. I would suggest only watching the first few minutes, as it gets rather disturbing.

Watch Saving Africa's Witch Children in Activism & Non-Profit  |  View More Free Videos Online at

You can help by donating money to the Child's Right and Rehabilitation Network, which runs homes for the child victims in Nigeria.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Rape, sex and power - and possibly some discussion of porn...(updated)

I am going to give this conversation a rest now (unless someone comes along wanting to discuss the porn). I really don't have an interest in saying things that are offensive to others and I am not sure exactly how to have this conversation without doing so. I come at it from a particular direction, where the terms being argued have very specific definitions. The distinctions being argued however, aren't important except in a very specific context. It is just not important enough to cause others distress and gets very creepy when I come off the way I am coming off in this discussion.

I am sorry for causing any discomfort.

Over at a blog that is rather new to me, The Thoughtful Animal, Jason Goldman wrote an interesting post, questioning the impact of porn on the people who watch it. Unfortunately, the discussion that followed in comments became a battle about whether porn is inherently bad, or whether it might be rather more complicated than that. This stemmed from some serious condemnation of Jason for asking the wrong question, that instead the important question would be along the lines of; "Should something like porn, that is inherently exploitative towards women and is always an act of violence against women?"

Chaos ensued, unfortunately, with me contributing rather a lot to it. Jason was really rather keen on talking about the topic he had actually written about, but of a very long comment thread, there were very few comments that addressed that topic. And Zuska joined the fray, with a post of her own, the comments again turning to chaos and unfortunately causing Zuska rather a lot of distress. When she mentioned this and her plan to close the comments in a few hours, a number of assholes took it upon themselves to, of course, be assholes about it. In particular, Joshua Zelinsky was asshole enough to explain to Zuska that she should really do her homework on the topic of pornography - feeling that her emotional and mental health are just silly little concerns. Since I couldn't say it there:

Fuck You Joshua!

What Joshua did was not a whole lot different than telling someone who suffers pathological depression, that they should just stop thinking so negatively. I think most of the half dozen or so who are reading this are probably aware of how I feel about that kind of bullshit. That is the sort of shit that pressures people to be ashamed of their own brains, to feel like their feelings aren't valid. While I am pretty sure that Zuska is unlikely to feel that sort of shame - especially over something said by an asshole on her blog, it is really fucking obnoxious, asshole.

So - that out of the way, I am not going to actually delve into the discussion about porn anymore - you have the links and if you were actually a part of the discussion, you are aware anyways. I am however, opening the comments on this post to discuss the porn issue further. If you choose to engage in that discussion here though, I will warn you ahead of time that I am not likely to play nice about it here.

What I am going to address, are a couple of comments that came up on Jason's blog, shortly before he closed comments. I said that I would address those comments here and so I shall. The comments were from Luna_the_cat & Max - with Max basically reiterating what Luna had to say. They were a response to my inference that rape is more often about sex, than it is about power. Luna wrote;
DuWayne, the one thing that I'll take issue with you on is that. Studies done with rapists have indicated it isn't really about sex; it is sexualised power, and what I recall from research I did on this a few years ago, over 60% of convicted rapists are quite overt about motivations to "get back at women" or "put a woman in her place" or similar, as well as gaining perceived status from the rape from a peer group. And from surveys done of incarcerated populations, as well as NCVS studies, most rapists are actually in sexual relationships with people other than their victim at the time the crime is committed, which knocks the whole "it's because they can't get access to sex" thing on the head. It's also borne out by how many assaults involve additional acts to humiliate the victim, like pissing on her or forcing her to thank the attacker. (yeah. seriously.) It is multifactorial, and different individuals have different mixes of motivations, but to say it's "mostly sex" isn't justified. The "it's a power play" position is justified by evidence, even though it is overtly and explicitly sexual in nature.

Date rapes or rapes of drunk/drugged victims who are unable to express nonconsent effectively, might be "more about the sex", but it is impossible to state that as a universal. There is too much variation in both the nature of the assaults and the nature of the assailants.
Ok, so if we're talking about rape defined as "random stranger assault" then yes, rape is often mostly about power. But the rape as defined by the second paragraph is by far the most common form of rape and there is no question that that is most often, mostly about the sex, not the power aspect. I am not saying that power never plays a role, just that sex plays a more prevalent and stronger role. The same is true of incestuous molestation. While it is more complicated, because power differentials so often play a role - it is also generally about the sex. This is not a controversial claim I am making either. See here, here, here, here and here. That was less than a minute of searching.

Acquaintance rape is not only by far the most common, it is also the least reported - in part because victims are either ashamed, not sure it wasn't really their fault or both. Some women are simply not aware that what happened was rape, an attitude that is common with women who were raped while partying - even if they had been drugged. A lot of the studies (data collection by the Department of Justice has been ongoing for decades now) utilize questionnaires given to both men and women. Instead of asking women if they were victims of rape, and asking men if they are rapists (yes, males get raped too and there are probably studies going on), they describe scenarios and ask women and men if they have been on either side of such scenarios. Many of these studies also ask both men and women what they believe the motivation for that scenario was - assuming they responded positively. When it comes to acquaintance/date rape, both men and women who had responded affirmatively felt that sex was the primary motivation.

I will admit that this is not an area that I have spent as much time exploring, as I have other aspects of human sexuality. More than most anything else, rape is just really hard for me to look into very much. Far too many women I know were either raped as an adult, or were raped as a child - almost always by a family member. I can't sit down and explore this issue, without thinking about so many people that I care about and what their experience with rape did to them. But I am very aware of the statistics and I am also very aware of the way these studies are conducted. Figures range from ten percent of college age women, to one in four college age women having been raped at some point in their lives. The figures for men having participated in a rape - or "act of sexual aggression," is in some studies as high as ten percent, though roughly five percent is a reasonable aggregate of the data I have seen.

So Luna & Max, that is why I made the assertion I did. I understand where you are coming from and agree that in the context of stranger rape, it probably is most often about power. There is a lot of data that would indicate that at the very least it plays a significant role. But when it comes to all rape, the data simply doesn't fit your assertion. Oh, there was another bit to address...
...It's also kind of another slap in the face for victims. "It's just sex" has been a way of telling people they're blowing the whole thing out of proportion and they just need to get over it ("besides, they want it, really") for a long time. The people who have been on the receiving end of this know that it isn't sex. It is sexualised violence.
I very strongly disagree about this being a slap in anybody's face - it is certainly not how I intend it. The motivation of the fucking bastard who perpetrated that crime has nothing to do with how horrifying the crime is. I am sorry that some women who have been raped feel this way and I do not want to seem to be invalidating anyone's feelings - that is not what I am all about. But I don't begin to see how the motivation of a sex offender, changes the proportional damage the crime causes. Whether the fucker was doing it for power, doing it for sex or doing it because voices in his head told him to, it is still fucking rape.

Seriously, I comprehend and respect the feelings of people who have been victimized by rapists. I cannot understand them, because I have not had the experience - but I also know way too many women who have been raped and definitely comprehend how terrible it is. I am not denying that power can play a role and is probably the primary role when it comes to stranger rape. But when it comes to acquaintance rape, sex plays a primary role in motivating the men who commit the crime. That does nothing to change what has been done to the woman, doesn't detract one bit from the validity of her feelings after. The reason I think this is important, is because I think that understanding the motivations behind sex crimes is an important aspect of learning how to prevent them. I may write some about that in the future, but that is a whole post, in and of itself.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

What is this meaning you speak of, and why does it matter?

PZ Myers posted an interesting video by a nutter priest. The underlying theme, that "new atheists" just aren't serious about atheism is rather ridiculous, but he also goes on at great length about meaning. This actually follows nicely with a discussion I had a while back, when I met with some of the local CFI members for Cafe Inquiry. (horribly, I was late and we ended up not really getting into the topic I had chosen for the evening - though that saves me thinking about another one)

I think there are some definite advantages to having become an atheist at this point in my life, in this time. A very big one is this whole notion of some metaphysical meaning to life. I was struck last night when we were momentarily on a discussion about philosophers. One of the gentlemen at the meeting looked over at me and said; "I am eighty three years old and I have been really wondering about [meaning] for most of my life." He has also been an atheist/agnostic for most of that time, as far as I could gather.

To my post Christian self, this seems rather simple. There is no great mysterious meaning to life. Quite simply, my life has the meaning that both I attach to it and the meaning those whose lives I touch attach to it. And having wasted all too much of my life wondering at what meaning some magical being attached to my life, I am extremely comforted by this. I don't have to wonder about it, because when I let go of the god paradigm, I let go of a lot of the baggage that went with it - though certainly not all.

This may well be the most important baggage that I have left behind. To be certain, this places a great deal more responsibility onto my shoulders. Now I not only have to decide what meaning I want my life to have, I have to live a life that will create that meaning. But this is also empowering to me. No more to wonder what some amorphous being put me here to be, put all of us here to be, my life belongs to me now. And while things are definitely not perfect, I have mentioned before about what a brilliant time it is to be human.

I think this concept of meaning and ownership of self is what really gets me excited about being human. It is also what gets me so excited about living in this backwater planet in a backwater galaxy. No imagined being owns me, controls me or forces me into a neat little box of meaning that I can't even know or understand. As intimidating as it seems sometimes, I have a great deal of control over what my life means. While I am not always the nicest of people, I have managed to do some pretty awesome things for people - though that is balanced some by having hurt people too. But as I grow, mature and move into a career of service both to my chosen profession and to people who are so very despised by so many other humans, I am becoming a person whose life's meaning is something I can be proud to call my own. And as I learn and grow as a parent, there is a great deal of meaning that is wrapped up in the skin of two wonderful boys.

It is exceedingly unlikely there is any extrasensory meaning to life. What we see, who we are is what we get. And no matter what Father Barron seems to think about it, this is a wonderful thing. It is a gift not given by some god or by the universe, it is a gift we can give ourselves when we let go of gods and magical thinking*. It is freedom from yet more chains created by enculturation in a default religious society. It is freedom from an abysmal distraction in our exploration of the rolling vistas of our minds, though it is no less a quest.

It is still a quest. But it is not a futile quest. It is not a quest in which we are powerless to influence the outcome and whose outcome we can actually understand. It is a quest made up of decisions instead of speculations and that is truly wondrous to behold - far greater than a chorus of heavenly angels could ever be. It is an ever continuing quest to be a better human being than we were mere moments before

* Assuming you were ever really there.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

My Brilliant Partner and Her Exciting New Situation

I am so very excited to be able to finally mention this awesome news about Juniper, the very best partner a guy could want. I can't begin to express how very lucky I am to have such a great partner, proud that such a woman wants to be with me.

And now things are even better for her. I have been rather biting my tongue wanting to congratulate her publicly. Now that she has broken her rather extended blog silence, I figure it is ok to do so. My very beautiful, fucking brilliant partner has been accepted into a PhD program. A program she was rather strenuously encouraged to apply for by her soon to be mentor. A program he wanted her in because she is so very clever that it shines.

I love Juniper so very much and am terribly excited that she has this opportunity. She deserves it, even given her minor problems earlier in her education. And she is going to excel. She is going to excel because she has my absolute support - long distance though it may be. And she is going to excel because of all the generous and outstanding support she has from so many wonderful people in the science blogosphere.

What happens to her is very important to me and what is happening now is in no small part because of the support and encouragement that so many of you have given her. Just as I cannot begin to express just how proud I am to have her in my life, I also cannot begin to express just how much I appreciate the lengths so many of you have gone through to support her. I am amazed ever day and unspeakably grateful for everything so many of you have done for her and for me as well. Both Juniper and myself have been given great opportunities because of blogging an the relationships we have developed.

Thank you all so very much for being a part of our lives.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Bloody Damned Online Exams1!!1!!!!11!!

In general I rather like Moodle, our web learning system. Except when it comes to taking tests. When it comes to taking tests it can suck sweaty donkey balls. This is not, I should note, the fault of the Moodle system, but rather is the fault of Valley's techies.

When I first used Moodle, I was warned by the instructor that we should log into Moodle through the back, rather than through the school web site. If you logged in through the web site the system would time you out after 25 minutes of inactivity. Taking a test counted as inactivity.

Then somewhere along the way while tweeking moodle, apparently they set it to log you out after an hour of inactivity even logged in through the back. Ooops. This means that if you are taking a test and take more than an hour, when you go to submit it will ask you to log back in. Early on fter this change this meant you just lost your only chance to submit your test. Being logged off the system and back on in the middle of a test counted as an attempt and few instructors allowed more than one attempt. After this caused no small uproar they apparently changed the system so that it wouldn't log you off in the middle of a test - or so I thought.

Then I took my communications final this afternoon. Apparently they only extended the time it takes to time you out of the system while taking a test. Now they were kind enough to set it up so that if you actually happen to get timed out while taking a test, it won't count as an attempt when you log back in - it will just take you back to your test. With one small problem...

The motherfucking test comes back fucking blank!!!!!!!!!!

My communications final consisted of two long essay questions, a small short answer section and six short essay questions. Three of the short essays and the first long essay required that you actually do a little bit of quick research, as they included bits that did not come from our reading or discussions. I spent a little over two and a half fucking hours on my final, only to have the whole motherfucking thing pop back up blank. And while the first question - one of the long essays, was set up in a window that allows you to copy and paste, the rest of the responses went into windows that didn't allow that. So while I actually had the answer to the first saved, I didn't have the rest.

I wish I had noted that you can print the fucking thing before I tried to submit the first time. I noted this and "printed" it to an xml file the second time around, before I submitted it - just in case. But that time it went through without a problem. It also went through a good deal shorter than it was the first time around. I should be fine, but I prefer to be more than fine. My general preference is to produce work that makes my instructors wish they could give more points for an assignment.

Motherfucking online tests...