The God Placebo, pitfall for an atheist in recovery, and other fallacies

This post has no answers; only questions. It is an attempt to lay out the pitfalls for an atheist, or any critically-minded person, in recovery. Recovery is difficult enough, but if you have more than average intelligence and are an atheist or a person who has good critical thinking skills, it can be even more difficult.

I think of myself as a reasonably intelligent person (although I have my doubts at times), and this has been reinforced by enough people frequently enough that it’s likely correct (or so I hope). I’m also a logical person, with good common sense, able to think critically, and one who never takes anything at face value. I’ve always been this way, and it has served me well through the years. But there was a time when it made life difficult. That time was the start of my recovery from addiction.

I first started in recovery, at the end of 2009 to the  beginning of 2010, in a Christian-based rehab, one that despite my issues with, I highly recommend – Careline, in Hillcrest, Natal, South Africa. (I see they’ve revamped their website. Those photos make it look great; after all it is located in a beautiful, scenic area. But I confess it felt like a cage to me.) I learned a lot of good things there, advice I take to heart even today; information about how drugs work, about what exactly they do to the brain, and most of what I know about avoiding people, places and things that I identify with my drug of choice. (They didn’t teach me what to do when those people, places and things can not be avoided though – I had to figure that one out for myself.)

But there are major issues with the accepted approach to recovery. Two of the three that I’m writing about today overlap, but each is in itself broad and deeply entrenched into the recovery “culture”:

  1. Theism (Belief in a theistic god.)
  2. The 12-step plan (A plan that many follow religiously, though there is no evidence either that it really works, other than the anecdotal, or that it has any basis in fact.)
  3. Fallacious beliefs in the approach to recovery

Theism

The way I see it, depending on which side of the fence you’re standing on, God is either:

  1. The single-most popular placebo in existence.
  2. The most tempting straw man (to burn) in existence.

That is, there is no evidence for a god, but plenty of people believe in one. No matter how rationally, logically or reasonably I argue with them, the fact is they have a belief in an unfalsifiable god, one that exists outside the bounds of science and reason and is thus not subject to the laws of physics, and they will never change their minds. The only people I can convince are other atheists (who do not need to be convinced) and maybe people who already have their doubts (as I did before I let go of my indoctrinated beliefs). Religiously indoctrinated people will always reinterpret my reasoning in terms of their preconceived beliefs, where they start out with the assumption that god exists.

Unlike other placebos, theists don’t even have to take water or sugar pills, or anything else. For a theist, the belief itself is the placebo. There is one aspect to this that I find really funny: Since the placebo doesn’t involve anything that can be purchased, theism should always be free, so it should also be the cheapest placebo. Yet it isn’t! There are many scammers who con gullible believers out of their money, in return for the salvation and eternal life or forgiveness they think they will receive.

As for the straw man… You can’t prove a negative, and since there is no evidence of God, anyone who tries to argue against theism by way of an example, any example at all, has to contrive something to argue against. For example, Richard Dawkins described the behaviour of theists in The God Delusion, calling out specific beliefs and behaviours, which he then analysed. (I still haven’t read it, so I’m assuming he did something similar to what he did in the documentary.) Whatever examples are used, it doesn’t matter, every one of them can always be called a straw man. So arguing against theism is impossible. (But that doesn’t stop us from trying.)

But faith is more than just that promise of salvation – it gives you something to believe in, and perhaps a personal relationship with your imaginary god that brings comfort throughout life. As such, recovering addicts and others who are desperate to correct their mistakes in life can find great solace in their religion, even though their god isn’t real. I have no problem with those people, and would prefer to leave them be, living their happy-clappy delusion somewhere far away from me, but in recovery I am forced to deal with such people.

In recovery, and especially in the beginning at rehab, I was forced to listen to them talking nonsense about their placebo that can never work for me. (A placebo can only appear to work if you believe.) I was forced to listen to people talk to me about a higher power, and how finding it solved all their troubles. Of course I acknowledge that there are people and things outside myself that are greater than I, but I do not believe for one moment that there is any guiding force, or creator, or karma, or anything of the sort in the universe.

Recovery without the god placebo is quite different. Either way, you are alone, but the difference is that as an atheist, you know it. This meant that I had to find my own way; that much of what I was taught was useless to me. No doubt, the life of a happy idiot who simply accepts Jesus without asking questions, is a much easier life. Ignorance is bliss, but it is not for me.

The 12-step plan

They tell me I don’t need to believe in God to follow the 12-step plan. That, of course, assumes that I will come around and accept a god anyway.

These are the 12 steps I mean:

  1. We admitted that we were powerless over our addiction, that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. We made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. We continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Please, somebody tell me how the above can ever work without a belief in God?

  1. That one’s alright. Yes, my life became unmanageable, and alone, I was powerless over it. Thankfully other people, not imaginary beings, were able to help me. Unfortunately most of those people believe in the make-believe.
  2. This one is only possible if I can apply something other than God. I’m told I can use anything, like science. But it’s a stretch that makes no sense at all. I don’t believe there is any guiding force in the universe. There is only chaos.
  3. So which is it? Shall I turn my life over to nothing or chaos? That’s where it was in active addiction. I am in control now, not any drug dealer who takes advantage of me, not any employer who thinks he can bully me into unreasonable work without compensation, and certainly not any magic man up in the sky. Me!
  4. That one’s not a problem.
  5. Sure, I can admit to myself and others, and have done so many times over. But I don’t have the luxury of a god placebo to believe in.
  6. You must be fucking joking.
  7. I am not humble. I am proud, and strong, and as cool as asking an imaginary friend to remove shortcomings might be, I’m smart enough to know that it won’t achieve anything. Will the imaginary friend reciprocate? I don’t think so.
  8. There is only one person who I care to make amends with. That is my son. Nobody else matters and for the small things I did wrong, I do not care for forgiveness. What’s done is done.
  9. I am doing my best to be the best father that I can be. That also involves giving my son advice to help guide him to being able to think for himself. I will never tell him that there is no god, but he already knows that I do not believe in one, and I will do all I can to guide him to learn to be a good critical thinker.
  10. That is part of life, as far as I am concerned. Learning and growing in my career, intellectually, and morally, is part of what makes living worthwhile (besides seeing my son grow up). I am always happy to learn when I am wrong.
  11. Refer to number 6.
  12. Does it count as a spiritual awakening, to realize that there is no such thing as a spirit?

Regarding step twelve, maybe in a way I am trying to bring my lessons in recovery to other addicts, especially if they are atheists. Recovery is more difficult without a god placebo, but I hope that like myself, you can find something real, something tangible to rely on, not flimsy faith in an imaginary being that will never be there for you when the chips are down.

Other fallacies

The problem for me is, I ask “What is the correct approach to recovery?”, but I have not found a satisfactory answer. That is, it seems to be normal to follow the 12 steps. But what evidence is there that it works? I mean, how can placing my faith in a god that does not exist possibly work?

I understand that it can work if you do believe, or at least, it can appear to work, but even then, I’m not too sure. When I attended NA meetings, I noticed that even people who followed the program rigorously would slip up and relapse. And the answer to why that was the case would always be the same:

  • You weren’t following the program properly. Or…
  • You weren’t serious enough about recovery. Or…
  • You weren’t truly in recovery.

Can you see where this is going? It’s a fallacy called No true Scotsman. That is, redefine what it means to truly be in recovery, every time someone fails. It’s not only the people who look down on others who have relapsed that think this way, it’s also people who have come back into recovery after a relapse, who then say things like “I didn’t take recovery seriously enough the first time”. They are not even aware of the fallacious way they reason, but in doing so, one could say that nobody who is truly in recovery ever fails, because you can simply reject anyone who fails by saying that they didn’t try hard enough. That way, the anecdotal evidence that the 12-step plan works seems that much more compelling. I call bullshit.

It’s not just that fallacy. People who run rehabs like to talk about the “latest research on addiction” indicates…

What latest research? There are not many scientists working on this, to my knowledge.

There is one famous doctor, Dr Kevin McCauley… I watched a DVD of his at rehab, and while I learned a great deal about addiction and how it works, and I’m sure he has done great work, he lost me when he explained his theories on why addiction is a disease. Yes, he made a lot of sense, but then he digressed into arguing against the “addiction as a choice model”, with which he disagrees to a great extent. But there was something more going on there, in that argument. He argues against a straw man. He tells us addicts what we want to hear, that we aren’t bad, and that we had no choice, that we could not stop ourselves. He tells us what we want to hear, because this is obviously what he wants to hear, because he is a recovering addict himself. (i.e. His research/theory is biased, and he is not aware of his own bias.) I don’t know if his research really follows the scientific method, or if his papers are published and peer-reviewed, but I do know that there are many doctors who have epiphanies, and come up with all sorts of nice-to-believe theories, that have not a grain of truth in them. Thus I am very dubious of this man’s research.

To conclude this section, I don’t believe the standard approach to recovery is anything more than a rather flimsy placebo, and I don’t necessarily believe the latest research on addiction is very useful. As I stated upfront, I don’t have answers – only questions.

Posted in Addiction, Advice, Meth, My life, Recovery | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

I didn’t know you can “delay-post” blogs

But found it out here.

I’ve been experimenting with writing drafts instead of writing and publishing immediately, which is useful when I can’t write in office hours. But I didn’t know that WordPress allows you to publish your blogs at a future date. (And I still have no idea how to do so from the WordPress web editor itself.) But if you use Windows Live Writer, as I do, it’s simple… There’s a dropdown combo box labelled Set post date, in the top-right corner, just below the ribbon. I tried it with my most recent post, set it to publish at 5PM at the end of the day (so that I could see when it published, just before going home), and sure enough, the post only became visible at 5PM. I’ll use it again for this one…

delaypublish

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Some bits and pieces, and answers to questions posed by desperate internet searches

Today’s post is a mixed bag, containing one topic regarding my own recovery, and answers to questions posed by desperate internet searches that found their way here.

Another using dream

I’ve mentioned before that I don’t often crave meth anymore; I do occasionally – but those cravings are few and far between, as well as easy to deal with. The type of craving that I experience more often is a “using dream”. I haven’t discussed this with other recovering addicts, so I don’t know how common this type of dream is, but in my typical using dream, I don’t dream about getting drugs, or even using drugs; instead, I dream that I have already used.

That is, in the dream I’m convinced that I used a few days before. I don’t actually remember using and I’m confused, but am convinced that it did happen. (The confusion makes it all the more convincing, because in active addiction, confusion is part of everyday life.) Then I feel the guilt that I would feel if I had really used. These dreams are more than a little discomforting, because they not only force me to feel guilt for wrongdoing that isn’t real, they also force me to engage a part of my mind that I prefer not to face. That is, having become convinced that I did use, my first instinct is not to go back to NA meetings, or to call somebody, or to go to rehab. My first instinct is to be deceitful and hide what I have done, with my objective being to avoid the consequences thereof.

I wake from those dreams with a strange mixture of relief and guilt:

  1. Relief that it wasn’t real. I didn’t actually use and the feelings of guilt in the dream were feelings regarding an imaginary wrongdoing.
  2. Guilt that my first instinct was to be deceitful and hide my wrongdoing in the dream.

What worries me is my reaction when I believe that I have used. (Even if the using was imaginary, since it was a dream. That’s not the point.) That’s exactly how I reacted when I did relapse. The problem is, because I tried to hide it instead of seeking help, I turned what could have been a six month phase of active addiction into one that lasted nearly eighteen months. I kept telling myself “I’ll quit tomorrow”, but tomorrow never comes.

That doesn’t bode well for me, in that it predicts dire consequences if ever I relapse again. Of course I’m absolutely certain that will never happen, and this is yet another reason to make sure of that. I can’t consciously control what my subconscious mind thinks, but I can learn from it, I hope.

Also, it appears that I don’t always follow my own advice. But the bottom line is, don’t do what I would do… If you are using, get help. Trying to stop on your own is unwise, and probably won’t work out. It somehow worked out for me (eventually) but you must assume that it will not work out for you.

Does speed make you violent?

Indirectly… yes, it can.

It affects your emotional state, obviously, since a high is nothing more than drug-induced feelings of euphoria. It stands to reason that if it affects some emotions, it might also affect others. Meth is also a central nervous system stimulant, and it causes you to overreact emotionally to things that you might otherwise not react to at all. You probably aren’t aware of the changes to your own emotions, because drug-induced emotions alter the chemistry in your brain, bringing about emotions in much the same way that they normally happen, so drug-induced emotions feel just as normal as any others. But if you use with other people, you will notice how they constantly overreact to everything. Groups of meth users are always noticeably tense, tend to argue over trivial matters, and are prone to sudden loud emotional outbursts. Meth puts you in a state very similar to fight-or-flight response mode – it’s like an adrenalin rush that lasts for hours.  (Trust me, everybody on meth is emotionally unstable.)

So yes, meth makes you emotionally unstable. It causes you to overreact to all kinds of things, and those emotional overreactions can include anger, which can lead to aggression and violence.

If you’re a user who read this, realize that it’s true, but still think it doesn’t apply to you, then I have bad news. You are not in control; the drug is controlling you. It is impossible to control yourself on meth, simply because there is no way to tell the difference between your genuine feelings and those induced by the drug. This knowledge alone should be enough for you to get the help that you need.

Meth psychosis demons/Meth reptilians

These were two unrelated searches from two different individuals, but I’m grouping them because such crazy beliefs are too similar to address individually.

I know there are people like David Icke who say that reptilians are amongst us, and I don’t know if he believes his own words or not, but anybody who truly believes that reptilian aliens are amongst us must be out of their mind. Reptilian + Meth = Madness. You need help.

Regarding psychosis demons, I could not have come up with a better oxymoron myself. Psychotic people are delusional, and one would assume that if you know (or think that you) are psychotic, you should at least know that demons are not real. But to search for psychosis demons implies that you know you’re delusional, but think that the demons are real anyway. Yup… that sounds like meth-induced madness. You need help too.

Posted in Meth, My life, Recovery, Relapse, Tweaking | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Are misogyny (and other forms of prejudice) the downfall of atheism?

I read an interesting article the other day regarding misogyny in atheism, or at least in the sceptical movement. At least it was interesting at face value. Unfortunately I’ve lost the URL, but I did notice that other articles have been published since then, climbing on that bandwagon.

The original article dealt with an unfortunate incident where one of the most popular speakers in the US sceptical movement took advantage of a woman, and went into a great deal of detail. The article also implied, both in its title and via innuendo throughout, that this behaviour in the “highest echelons of atheism” (clarification: that’s not a quote from the article – those are my words to paraphrase and mock the article), as well as the dismissal of it by other prominent atheists, could spell the death of the “movement”.

But what struck me as odd was that it made some hasty generalizations, and also conflated a few things.

Firstly, the man took advantage of a woman, which is not nice. I’d advise female friends who might be exposed to such a man to be careful. However, what it came down to, simply from reading her side of the story, was that she was drunk, and had consensual sex with him. Being drunk lowers your inhibitions, then you might do something you regret. But to then try to duck responsibility for your poor choices afterwards is senseless (though it appears to fool many people). That would be like me saying that I wasn’t responsible for all those stupid things I did in the years that I used methamphetamine. Because I was high. Or because I was drunk. That’s the gist of her argument (although her argument goes a little further than only denying responsibility – it tries to blame somebody else, and in so doing, hides the real “because I was drunk” implicit argument because it is not stated).

That is, it is a poor argument to deny responsibility for any actions committed while under the influence of drugs or alcohol; it is doubly poor to then blame somebody else who took advantage of you while you were inebriated. If that argument were valid, then most criminals would not have been prosecuted (because they were also not responsible for their actions). I’m aware that there is a fine line between this argument and the blaming of victims for their own circumstances, but I do not believe that this even applies here: Nobody cried rape; She was not forced. She consented; then regretted it. Too late. If I were that man, I would have taken her to court for slander, and maybe libel. (Of course I would never take advantage of such a woman, but that’s not the point.)

So what we have here, is a man who took advantage of a drunk woman. That happens all the time, and it has nothing to do with his or her beliefs. It has nothing to do with misogyny either, because misogyny is the hatred of women. It doesn’t even necessarily mean that he is a sexist. So maybe he’s a jerk. But to connect his behaviour to his beliefs is akin to correlating them to the colour of his car. I don’t see any articles about the terrible things done by men who drive red cars…

Next, that article gave the impression that atheism and scepticism are the same thing. They are not. Many sceptics are atheists, but not all. One does not have to either believe or disbelieve in a theistic god to be able to think critically about other things. Many sceptics are religious.

Of course that article paved the way for others to see some relationship between atheism and misogyny, or at least bigotry (prejudice) in general. I take great offence to that. As a white South African, who grew up in the old apartheid system, I’ve seen a lot of prejudice. As a person who happened to be born “white”, I also had to contend with some people who had the mind-set that all whites are racist, and that somehow we owe them something just because we are white. I also experienced first-hand, in my torturous year of national service, how racist religious people can be. They preached their own version of Christianity, using bible versus to justify racism and things like the old “Group Areas Act”.

Actually, I’ve read a great deal about racism the last few months, mainly due to my (now waning) fascination with “fringe” beliefs and culture. It seems that racists, who unfortunately usually are white, tend to believe in a lost white race, a race which they somehow find “proof” for via stubbornly narrow-minded interpretation of mythology and religion. Racists tend to be very religious indeed, and always use their religious beliefs to justify their racism.

But prejudice is not exclusive to Christianity…Islam is a religion that has prejudice against women built into it, but of course to the true believer, that prejudice is justified and really means something else, or so they tell themselves. No, there is far more prejudice inside religion than there will ever be outside of it. It is stupid to judge all atheists by the alleged behaviour of one man.

And regarding the question posed by my title (related to scepticism, as it should have been asked), I think the answer is “No!”. It’s great that there is a sceptical movement nowadays; it’s great that it’s becoming more popular to question the nonsense that is now everywhere… My own mother believes that taking Vitamin C will help prevent her getting a cold, and even once gave herbal tablets of some sort called “Rescue Remedy” to calm down the family cat, who was unduly stressed. I can’t watch TV without seeing adverts that promote substances that can not possibly work; I can’t put the TV on on a Sunday without seeing an annoying program called “Healing Quest” that sells nonsense about spiritual healing, acupuncture, Reiki, homeopathy and goodness knows what else. We live in a time when scepticism is more needed that ever, but it will always be needed, and there can never be too many sceptics.

Religion, I fear, is here to stay. There’s nothing in it, and I do not believe that even if there is a god, anything any person has ever said or written or done, has anything to do with that potential god. But we as a society are as far from reason as we will ever be.

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I hate deployments… (work-related)

There’s something about deploying software and configuration changes that I just dread. It’s like same kind of paranoid fear that something will go wrong – something bad will happen and I will then panic. Invariably things don’t go wrong, but that doesn’t take the fear away.

So here I sit at work on a Saturday afternoon. One of our applications is a Windows application used by companies that do imports/exports. So the application is responsible for all the EDI files that are sent to/from SARS. (i.e. Customs) The gateway will only be switched at 2PM, and my part of it is simply to change the clients’ configuration on the server. Our “support guy” will then deploy the new EXE and test it, so the programming changes are all done and dusted – this should be a relatively simple affair and the only thing that can go wrong, in theory, is on the SARS side. And I got here nearly two hours early to make sure I was ready and that nothing will go wrong in my part of this. I didn’t even need to do this at work, as everything is remote, but I’m here because I wanted no distractions.

I wonder, are we (software devs) all so paranoid when it comes to deployments? I’m now ready to do what’s needed, but there is still more than an hour to go.

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Mid-week ramblings

OK, so it’s not mid-week anymore, but it was when I started writing this. The reference to today in the second topic actually refers to Wednesday, but it makes little difference I suppose…

I can’t write about what is really on my mind (in much depth), because it will probably upset some people, and I don’t have the time or the patience to deal with that again. I’ll write some of it anyway, but not in any depth, just because I feel it is useful to share the negative side of relationships in recovery and others may identify. (We are all alone in our problems, but our problems are often not unique, and identifying may help you feel a little better, or less alone.)

On my messed up and complicated relationships

The reason for my recent writing “bad” things about Megan, and subsequently removing them after some of her family members were upset and called her, was the pressure from her to get rid of my mother. There has been a lot of tension at home, with them both staying there, and she insists that she can’t live with my mother.

This is difficult because I can’t (and won’t) just throw her out, and do feel that Megan is being unfair. What I’d prefer to do is get a bigger place, like a house with a “granny flat”, and then at least she (my mother) doesn’t have to be in our faces. But I can’t afford that right now.

My mother is difficult, and can be aggressive and unpleasant, banging cupboards and doors, and so on, but I understand why she is that way; she feels threatened and really has nowhere to go. Both of them then get into silly arguments, with both being unnecessarily  aggressive to each other, which only makes things worse.

What all this comes down to is a great deal of pressure and idle threats to me, and an expectation that I should be looking for an old age home during the day. Megan doesn’t seem to understand how much work I do or how busy I am. I can write early in the morning before my colleagues get to work, but all the places I would need to call are not open yet, and I wouldn’t even know where to begin looking. Also, I’ll only agree if my mother can get into a place close by, but a decent place where she has her own cottage and garden, etc. Those sorts of places are probably very expensive and have waiting lists with a few years duration.

Update: Things have improved again since I wrote this a couple of days ago, but probably just temporarily. Megan is now not talking to my mother, and mother dearest hasn’t noticed yet, so all is well, but only on the surface. Every so often, the tension builds up, and then the arguments flare again. It can be something silly… Megan has a habit of misplacing things, then becoming suspicious of my mother, and saying things that imply, usually accidentally, that my mother was responsible for those things getting lost. Then they both get aggressive, Megan says something stupid, and my mother brings up something from the past, like “You stole money from my purse”, which was years ago. I do understand that she is a different person now, and isn’t capable of stealing from anybody, but I also see my mother’s point of view. Megan gets offended because my mother “holds a grudge” and didn’t forgive her. She seems to think that she is somehow entitled to forgiveness, but I don’t believe that anybody is. In any case, that’s just my mother’s way of arguing: bringing up things from years ago and using them against you.

I’m not sure what to do exactly, because I believe that both of them are wrong. It does affect me though, and sometimes leads to my having an unnecessary amount of stress both at home and at work. I need my space too, and have to relax somewhere. I wish they could both be happy with their lot; they each have a roof over their head, which isn’t perfect but it’s the best I can do right now, especially when neither of them are contributing financially.

There’s a lot I’m not saying, but the above is the gist of it…

A lost opportunity for sarcasm

At the beginning of this year, I had two new year’s resolutions.

  1. Start running again.
  2. Try to be less sarcastic.

I haven’t made any progress with either of them. (But, hey! I have a lot of stress in my life… Eating and being sarcastic to others are my two primary sources of stress relief.)

But this morning, I did almost have a great opportunity to use one of my favourite sarcastic lines… As I drove to work, at one traffic light which was still green for me, but with congested traffic, my going forward cut off a person driving in the other direction, who was turning. I had right of way, and she had to wait for me, plus I knew that on that particular road the traffic would flow in about another 30 seconds, but for those 30 seconds, her car mine were side by side. I expected her to hoot her hooter at me while she was adjacent to me, with our windows almost touching.

For Americans, “hoot your hooter” is probably stated as “honk your horn”. (I’m clarifying this because this blog has a large number of regular readers in the US.) I like hoot your hooter more than the other term, because it sounds sillier, that is more absurd, and easier to dismiss. But I digress… The point is, if the angry woman had only hooted at me while she was adjacent to me, she would have given me an opportunity to relieve some of my stress by using one of my favourite lines of sarcasm on her.

Too bad the opportunity was lost. I’ve only ever had a chance to use it once, and it goes something like this… Open the window, smile at the angry person, and say something like:

Hi there! Gosh, where did you learn to hoot like that? It’s really impressive. You know, if they gave out prizes to people who hooted really well, you would be a winner. Congratulations!

Yeah, it’s silly, I know, but try that line on somebody who’s really angry and see how they react… It’s really funny, because the person is already angry, and expects you to be embarrassed/apologetic by whatever you did that made them angry, so to have their anger dismissed as well as be mocked with some ironic sarcasm (Irony because it’s an insult disguised as a compliment), they get even more angry. Sarcasm can be a wonderful way to relieve stress, especially these days when most people only have the guts to be sarcastic to anonymous strangers on the internet. To see the look on somebody’s face is so much more fun!

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The unpredictable is only possible in new abstract beauty

I hate pseudoscience almost as much as I hate New Age nonsense, so it stands to reason that Deepak Chopra, who mixes them together in a pot of scientifical jargon, and made his fortune because a sucker is born every minute, is not my favourite person. But I do love anyone who mocks him, and was chuffed to discover this Deepak Chopra quote generator. The title is, of course, one of the generated quotes. (My only complaint is that it isn’t throwing the word quantum into every sentence.)

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A dumb moment

I’m too busy to write anything substantial today, or to continue with my draft from yesterday, but thought I’d share this moment of realization…

When did keyboards get a Calc key? I never noticed it before and for years have been launching the Windows calculator by hitting Winkey+R, then typing Calc and pressing Enter. So all I had to do was hit the Calc key. But I’ve never seen it before.

I have a Dell notebook here, and a Dell PC at home, but I really have no idea if that key is present on my PC too. If it is, I’ve never noticed it. Funny how easy it is to miss stuff right in front of you.

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No, I do not suffer from kidney disease

But thanks you for your wonderful comment. (And I really do mean that literally; that isn’t a typo – my arse thanks you for your comment.)

Seriously, if I did have kidney disease that required dialysis, I would not be looking at my own blog for adverts in the comments, selling me whatever fantastic magic schmagic dohickey anti-kidney-disease snake oil you are trying to sell. I hope you die a slow and painful death.

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Post-weekend ramblings

I have a couple of unrelated topics for today, mostly because of a weekend where my mind wandered quite a bit.

Dr Who

I’ve been lacking a good series to watch for a while now. I don’t have satellite TV, and the local channels here tend to ruin every series they show, by breaking each show into segments of around two minutes of the show followed by five minutes of adverts. They make every series unwatchable.

For some time now, I’ve been stumbling upon references to Dr Who everywhere, even on the occasional programming blog. I didn’t have much of an idea what the series was about, but decided to download season one, which I take is a reboot, from 2005. Now I’m hooked… This past weekend was a Dr Who weekend for me, and there are still another ten seasons to go. To anyone else who hasn’t watched it yet, is looking for a good series to get into, and prefers British humour, I highly recommend it.

Drug Tests and faint lines

I think of myself as quite clever, but every so often I learn that something I thought, some idea I had, is wrong. It’s always humbling. This one is quite funny.

When I first started in recovery, I noticed that my drug test, though it tested negative (which includes two lines for a negative result) had very faint lines. The person who did the test explained that the lines were faint because I wasn’t clean for long.

I believed him, but have had reason to question this the last few years. That is, the lines are always faint. Last night, the multi-test featured a test for weed also, and those lines came out faint, even though the last time I smoked weed was several years ago. And then it dawned on me… How could I be so dumb? Even if you test someone who has never used any drugs, the lines will be faint.

Urine drug tests do not show you if you are only just clean, and they can not measure some magic level of your sobriety. They can only measure whether or not a substance tested for is within their range of tolerance to be detected. So a negative result is a negative result, no matter how bold or faint the lines are.

What’s going on here is a clever psychological trick by the person who does the test. Once you have been tested, and the result is negative, your guard is down. The suggestion that faint lines indicate a limited time sober is simply meant for the person being tested to admit when last they used. For example, if you test negative, but admit that you used last week, since an admission of guilt is even better than a positive test result, it means that you are still in active addiction, and further you are trying to conceal it. I don’t know why it never occurred to me before, but it is a very clever trick, and one that I will use if ever I have to test anybody. (Not that I ever will need to. I detest tests almost as much as I detest the fact that so many recovering addicts end up working in recovery… in rehabs or whatever. I view the prospect of working with addicts in recovery as almost as bad as the prospect of selling drugs in active addiction. I’m glad I still have my life and my career.)

Posted in Recovery | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Stupid Questions

If you are a familiar reader, you no doubt already know that from time to time, I like to respond to search query strings that brought people here, because they are interesting or funny. This is one of those posts again.

Recovery from stupidity?

You can’t recover from stupidity. It’s permanent. Actually I intended starting this with sarcasm, writing that it’s admirable that you recognize your stupidity, but that there is no hope, and suggest that you consider a career in politics or marketing… However, the truth is that if you think you are stupid, you are almost certainly not stupid and have nothing to worry about.

According to the Dunning-Kruger effect, people who are truly incompetent in any skill will never know that they are incompetent, because the skills that they lack are also exactly the skills that they would require in order to know that they are incompetent. In other words, stupid people don’t know that they are stupid; to be able to understand that they are stupid would require them not to be stupid in the first place.

It is more likely that you suffer from the Imposter syndrome. That is, you are not stupid – you’re probably quite clever, but you doubt yourself. This is a good thing, because we go through life learning all the way. Anybody who rates themselves very highly in any skill should be regarded with great scepticism, because they may well be an idiot who is too stupid to know that they’re stupid.

An example where the Dunning-Kruger effect comes into play is job interviews. (Here I must write about software developers because that’s the industry I work in.) You can’t judge job candidates by the way they rate themselves, especially when you know about this effect, because in practice, it translates to the unfortunate situation where incompetents always rate themselves very highly, while good candidates tend to rate themselves more conservatively.

The next two paragraphs are not very relevant to you… Sorry.

In the end, the only way to know for sure if someone is worth hiring is to test them, starting by testing them for the minimum requirements to be able to do the job, and then further testing them with incrementally more complex tasks to assess the level of their skill. A great example of testing a programmer for minimum competency is the fizzbuzz problem. The test goes something like this: Write a program that outputs all the numbers from 1 to 100, but if a number is divisible by 3, output fizz, if a number is divisible by 5, output buzz, and if a number is divisible by both 3 and 5, output fizzbuzz.

The problem tests whether a programmer can solve a trivial problem, and should be solved in less than 2 minutes. It relies on the fact that every programmer, even the most junior, should know that their language of choice has a modulus operator. That is, divide two numbers and return the remainder. To test if any number is divisible exactly by any other number, the modulus must equal zero. (e.g. 5 mod 5 = 0; 5 mod 3 = 2) So the answer is to write a simple loop, with a couple of conditions in it that use the modulus operator. Anyone who can’t do that is obviously unqualified for even the most trivial programming task; anyone who over-engineers the solution with something “enterprizy” is probably a bad hire too because they lack basic logic skills, and anyone who overcomplicates it to show how clever they are is most likely the type of idiot to rule out as well, because they think they are more clever than they really are.

The point is, you are probably not stupid at all. Most likely you are one of the following:

  1. Suffering from imposter syndrome
  2. Depressed

Are some people unable to tweak on meth?

To the original person who asked the question, and spelled it as “are some pee unable to tweak on meth”, I say… Not you, because if you think it’s OK to abbreviate people to pee, either you are tweaking on meth, or there is something else wrong with you.

Seriously, that’s as stupid a question as any can be. One way of reading it implies that you would actually want to tweak on meth. I suspect though, that you do use and think it doesn’t affect you. In reality, if you use it, you will tweak. There is no doubt about that. The problem is, you don’t know that you are tweaking. Most users do not understand the psychological affect meth has on them, which translates to some very obvious behaviour changes that are apparent to anybody who observes them. If you use meth, you do tweak, no matter how normal you might think you are. (To the rest of us, you are a fucking zombie… an annoying zombie who neglects his or her responsibilities and is often too loud by overreacting to everything.)

Posted in Addiction, Advice, Meth, Recovery | Tagged

Another pet hate: Drivers who edge forward while the traffic light is red

Just a quick one this morning before I start my work…

This is one of those symptoms of bad drivers that always annoys me… Actually I’ll write about two of them since the prat I observed this morning was guilty of both.

  1. People who edge forward when they are in front at a traffic light, before the light is green.
  2. People who drive through red lights without stopping or even slowing down, because they think the light is not important.

Basically I hate people who drive like prats, because sooner or later they will get themselves or others killed. Not so bad if they kill themselves, because we surely need less prats in the world, but their being a danger to others is the problem.

This morning, I was in front of the right lane, with a much faster car, driven by a prat, in front of the left lane. Just across the road, the left lane narrowed and merged into the right lane, giving me right of way. The prat edged forward constantly before the light changed, and I stood still all that time, then as usual, out-accelerated the idiot on pull-off and passed him anyway.

Then he got aggressive, and when I stopped at the next light a couple of hundred meters away, he went flying past without stopping, of even slowing down. This light is outside a school, and although it looks like a pedestrian crossing, most drivers obey the red light. There might be schoolchildren around, and there is a concealed entrance to the road coming out of the school, so not even slowing down is surely criminal.

The thing is, you never need to edge forward in front of a traffic light. Never. Even if it’s a steep incline and you’re too lazy to use your hand-brake, if you’re a competent driver, you should be able to use your clutch and accelerator to remain stationary. Some of these prats end up halfway across the road before the light changes. I used to ask myself, “Why do I always out-accelerate these people, even if they have faster cars and start off ahead of me?”, but I know the answer to that question: They are prats.

A better driver than myself, with a faster car, would indeed start faster than me every time, without any effort, but all of these morons who are so busy edging forward, end up pulling off more slowly anyway, so why edge forward at all?

If you are one of those people, please do the rest of us a favour and find a way of killing yourself without endangering anybody else. Thank you.

Posted in Non-addiction | Tagged ,

This is why you shouldn’t pick up girls in clubs. A video that creeps me out.

I don’t even know how exactly I stumbled onto this, but it creeps the hell out of me. To honour its misleading and clickbaity title, I figured I’d share it with an equally misleading post title…

No, really – I find it deeply disturbing somehow. The title of “male to female transformation” implies to me the illusion of an average male being transformed to look female, but the guy isn’t exactly the height of masculinity to begin with. I mean, he’s quite pretty for a boy.

I’m quite certain the same makeup techniques being applied to somebody like me, for instance, would be… How shall I put it… less impressive? I have one feminine quality – unusually long eyelashes for a man, which the kids notice if I remove my specs and swim in the pool in summer. They’re so long, they touch my specs and leave marks that drive me nuts. But other than that, I have a voice like Darth Vader, only lower (and quite dull), as well as masculine features and a permanent shadow that no amount of makeup will ever be able to hide. (In other words, I’m pretty average for a male.) Shit… Why go to so much trouble to be a girl, and have to do it over and over again? Just get a sex change for fuck’s sake. (And I do mean that literally.)

Posted in Non-addiction | Tagged

Paint the sky green, because I have a meeting tomorrow and the sky needs to be green. You have half an hour.

This post’s title was a toss-up between the simpler “My patience is running low” and the one I used, which refers to a sarcastic retort I did not make to my boss at 16:30 PM. (Because it’s sarcasm, it isn’t meant to be taken literally.) Painting the sky green would be impossible, and his demand wasn’t impossible, just unreasonable in the timeframe he expects.

Unlike my colleague, who is prone to losing his temper and shouting, too often for his own good (in that he stresses himself out), I show anger a little differently. Actually I don’t show it at all straight away. Anyone who knows me well, knows that when I am really angry, I get really really quiet. It’s not a good thing, because in a work context, it can and has led to people who thought that they could take advantage of me.

I’m still not sure what to do about this. It isn’t the first time I’ve had something demanded of me, towards the end of the day, which would be impossible to finish on time without working at night. I can not and will not be bullied into unreasonable work pressure. Yesterday what I did say was “You don’t pay me to work at night”, which I don’t think was really appropriate, because that implies that this is about money, which it isn’t. I did send him a polite email now, explaining that the program I came up with to solve the problem is running, but will take a while, and that I believe his demand on me was unreasonable.

I hate being in these situations… I like my job, and do actually give a fuck about this company, but do not appreciate anybody who takes advantage of me.

(I’m breaking my own new rules here now… by writing this at work… although I am doing so while waiting for my program to finish running, so I can send him the results.)

Posted in Non-addiction | Tagged ,

The “faces of meth” don’t mean what you think they mean

I’ve written about this before, but it is a subject I never grow tired of.

The faces of meth

I was reminded of this again a couple of days ago, when browsing a site quite unrelated to meth addiction, and read some hateful comments somebody wrote regarding a photo of a stranger. What do you think the various “faces of meth” online achieve? I know what they’re supposed to do – deter you from using meth – but that isn’t what they actually do. They most likely do one of:

  1. Provoke you to say something like “How sad!” or “What a waste!” while not actually giving a damn.
  2. Indifference. (They provoke no feeling at all.)
  3. They provide an opportunity for comic relief. That is, you laugh at the plight of other people, and make hateful comments without even thinking about the fact that those are people who have problems. Worse yet, you might take the information supplied for the before and after images at face value, and conclude that this is what people who use meth for those number of years really look like, but conclude that it only applies to meth, not alcohol or other drugs.

Number three above is the most common case, as far as I’ve seen. This is a great example of the fact that evil lies in the heart of man, because there is no better way to describe that kind of condescension and malice for others, than evil. Whenever I see the reactions to such photos online, it makes me feel quite ill. But it doesn’t even matter, because whichever of the three ways you may react, you still miss the point.

The truth is, normal addicts, people who use drugs like meth every day for many years, don’t look anything like those mug shots most of the time. The ones you see are not only abnormally bad photos of the worst possible cases, they aren’t even true. When you see the before photo of a cute young girl, and then several photos of her through the years, there is no reason to believe that she hadn’t already been using for three or four years, when the before photo was taken.

All those sorts of photos do is insulate you from the truth. They prevent you from recognizing real addicts when they are right in front of you, and they also prevent you from seeing when people really have problems. They might allow you to think that other drugs are safe, so you can ignore your cocaine habit or your alcohol abuse because… “I’m OK. I don’t look like those people on meth.” Newsflash: Nobody looks like those people on meth, not even people who are on meth.

But you probably came here looking for faces of meth photos, thanks to my tagging of this post. So here you go:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         mugshot

The above are two photos of myself, before and after recovery.

The one on the left is me with Josh, from around 2008. The one on the right is me earlier today, on 01 September 2014. It’s also not a great photo, because this notebook doesn’t have the world’s best camera. But it’s good enough to make the point. (And I think I look damn good for one month shy of 43 years old.)

Posted in Addiction, Meth, Recovery | Tagged

Work should not intrude on one’s personal life. Should it?

This is a tough one for me. I work in a small company now, and as one of only two developers, I’m expected to be on “standby” for one of our web sites over weekends. I agreed to this thinking it was temporary. It’s a small site using node.js, so this is server-side JavaScript, something that’s completely new to me.

Most of the errors are not our fault… This is still quite an immature framework, and much of the errors are caused by limitations or bugs in the frameworks we use. The latest example is one where we get an error describing too many open files, even though our code doesn’t touch the file system at all. The error makes the site unusable for all the users, which is quite a problem, because the site is used for bank account validations in stores of a particular industry where one company has the monopoly, and we are in their stores nationwide. That means 1000 users nationwide, and more on the way as the site is sold to more companies. And the success/usage of this company’s software is in a major growth phase right now. But that growth could come to an abrupt end if the site were unusable for any significant duration of time.

Yesterday, the error happened while I was away from home… I went to the shop to buy drug tests because we had Josh over for lunch and the afternoon. Unfortunately, I took longer than expected because the shopping centre where I usually buy the tests (Dischem – Norwood Mall) was out of stock. This meant I had to drive to Greenstone Mall instead, then struggle for nearly half an hour to get a parking, only to spend far more than usual on a test that is more expensive. Meanwhile Abby dropped Josh off and didn’t wait for me, so we weren’t tested anyway. As much as I hate the weekly testing because it is far too frequent, when I go out of my way to purchase tests, I expect them to be used. Anyway, it’s not her fault, and we will be tested in the week.

The point of this ramble is, while I was shopping for tests, the server gave the error. Fortunately I got to it after only 30 minutes down time, so it could have been worse.

The issue for  me is, I don’t get to see Josh every day, so my time with him, and my time with my family in general actually, is very important to me. To me, the point of work is to facilitate looking after my family. Family is important. Work is just a necessity, although I do happen to love some parts and some types of development (c# programming mostly). But when work intrudes on my precious personal time and especially my time with Josh, it undermines its purpose, and becomes a burden. I do not appreciate work bleeding into my personal time.

Simultaneously, I do care about the company I work for, and the products we have developed. I take pride in my work, and I want to see this company, which is still a small start-up, succeed; not only because it’s in my interest financially. So I do not know how to handle this, and where to draw the line. I do know that if my boss ever asks me again, why I did not respond to a WhatsApp message at 10PM on a Sunday night, I may not be able to hold back my sarcasm.

Posted in Work | Tagged ,

Ghost sightings revisited

Introduction

I received an interesting comment from Rick Arrius to a recent post… I’m quoting the comment below, so you don’t have to navigate back and forth to read it.

Concerning Orbs and Ghost Sightings, those are very good explanations of some of the phenomena attributed to it. Now, in my house strange things did start to happen to my brother and sister right after I spent 5 nights praying and praising and all that spiritual stuff.

My sister started having bizarre nightmares, one of them being a man’s voice telling her to go into my room with a knife and end me. My brother started seeing a tall dark figure standing in front on his door and later a kid above his body and standing around the room. Now, he was awake and his room is super small, so the seeing things from the rear view or whatever does not apply here, and more so with the timing of other phenomena. He also started hearing these steps from these fancy classy shoes (sorry, Spanish is my first language) and voices saying weird stuff behind his ear (while being awake). My sister even saw a ball of light on her room once and it wasn’t moving and it wasn’t a random light bulb, and it had a blueish green color. I could go on and on, another friend had orbs encounters on his room on college at night after various days of stuff moving by themselves. Mind you, none of these people have ever done drugs of any kind and are not drinkers either.

I would like to know your thoughts on these. As for astrology, sounds pretty and all but psychology can do a more appropiate description of yourself.

First of all, despite the comment author’s home language being Spanish, not English, this is one of the better English comments I’ve read anywhere. (I’ve seen many native English speaker’s writing that isn’t nearly as good as this.)

He asks some interesting questions from, in my opinion, the point of view of someone who wants to believe. I’m not dissing him for that, because that’s exactly the way I describe myself. I had many similar “paranormal/supernatural” experiences and believed in their supernatural origin for many years – but I no longer believe that my own experiences were what I thought they were. That is my motivation for writing about them, and “debunking” similar experiences. So always keep in mind my motivation; I’m not putting anybody down because to do so would be to put myself and several family members down too. This is only my opinion, but it also my informed opinion, and my own logical conclusions that my experiences relate to the fallibility of memory which is prone to suggestion and imagination changing it over the years, by various influences, including my own cultural and religious upbringing as well as the influence of the reinterpretation of my recalled experiences by adults, at the time that such experiences occurred, which further influenced my mind with regard to forming and recalling those memories later.

Of course there are many people who think their logic is just as sound as I think mine is, who come to completely different conclusions about their experiences. I don’t presume to be correct, and am always open to correction where correction is due, but do feel that I am on the right track, and that there is value in sharing my opinion.

Orbs revisited

First of all, I should mention that I’d forgotten all about orbs until I recently watched a video by James Randi. My debunking of them was based on his debunking of them. (Once you see the explanation of orbs, it’s obviously correct.) Though I never believed their origin was really psychic, I didn’t know how to explain them before.

But why is it that I saw such videos and didn’t ever believe, while so many others did? The truth is, I don’t watch “ghost hunting” shows, because I don’t have satellite TV. I have watched parts of those shows, via YouTube. However, since I watched them during office hours at a previous workplace, I watched them without sound. I don’t think we all quite get the gravity of the audio in such shows. There’s normally a narrator, building you up gradually throughout the show, and then there’s the dialog of the people involved, plus the all-important background music and sound effects to establish the tone and atmosphere. Take all that away, and you see the video for what it really is: Active deception on the part of the TV producers.

What this leaves you with if you are inclined to want to believe, is a preconception that floating orbs are part of the “supernatural experience”. They have been brought into modern culture by the media, and even though such things never existed in previous years of paranormality, they are now a viable explanation to be suggested to children (and others who are suggestible) who see things they can’t explain; a suggestion that will then influence their later recollection of such sightings such that they genuinely believe that what they saw were orbs.

False correlation

We instinctively find patterns, and have since our primitive days, because it’s a survival technique. A simple and hopefully amusing example would be that we learned not to frolic in the forest while the saber-toothed cats were about, or in more modern terms, there is a correlation between death by hit-and-run and pedestrians who cross freeways. The freeway deaths are due to a direct correlation which equals causation. That is, you’re very likely to be hit and killed by a fast-moving vehicle if you’re stupid enough to walk across a freeway, because you can not reasonably judge how quickly a fast-moving vehicle will approach you.

But correlation is not always the same as causation. Sometimes our tendency to see patterns causes us to see correlation when what we actually have is no more than coincidence. Then selection bias kicks in.

The commenter’s sister had a nightmare involving an evil entity wanting him dead, after he had been praying for five days. He associated the nightmare with the praying, as if some malevolent being wanted to punish him for his spirituality. There are two things that could be going on here:

  1. He has made a correlation between his praying and his sister’s nightmare. I don’t know her age so I may be wrong to assume she’s a child, but assuming she is, children may have many nightmares. Here one nightmare in particular is being treated as something more, which is a false correlation, just because it happened around the same time as his praying.
  2. Nightmares don’t normally include much details, because we forget most of them within seconds of waking. It’s quite feasible that he has helped fill in the gaps of her partial memory of a dream. The result is more fantastic, more scary than an ordinary mundane nightmare, so she is keen to accept those details, and her mind then incorporates the new detail into her memory of the dream. This is, in fact, how memory works.

In short, I don’t believe much of the details were present in the girl’s actual dream. That meaning has been imposed on the dream by her brother.

There are many other examples where false correlations are made that lead to supernatural conclusions. In one example, a relative told me how, the night of the death of our aunt, who was very much into the superstitious and supernatural, at the exact moment she died, a mirror on his wall fell and smashed into pieces. He saw this as a message from her. The obvious question in my mind was “How did you know it was that exact moment?”. The more logical explanation here is a false correlation: Things happen… mirrors fall off walls, and that might be shocking to behold, especially if you’re in the room when it comes crashing to the floor. Finding out about the death of a relative shortly thereafter might result in the two events seeming like more than mere coincidence. The simple fact is that the mirror might have fallen at some other time, and then not have any significance imposed on it, and many similar events might have transpired that he didn’t even think twice about, but this one was assigned undue importance. Thus this is an example of both false correlation and selection bias at work.

Sleep Paralysis and Incubus attacks

In this section, I’ll address his brother’s visions. To me, this looks like a possible case of sleep paralysis. For a detailed definition of sleep paralysis, follow the Wikipedia link, but essentially it is, to wake in a weird state where you feel awake but not quite your whole brain is truly awake. You then feel paralysed (i.e. you can’t move) and have hallucinations. The hallucinations can be quite bizarre, but the most commonly held one is of a being sitting on top of you… a demon called an Incubus. Women may even think they are being raped. At least, the incubus hallucination is one that was documented going back a couple of hundred years – while in recent decades and with cultural and regional beliefs changing, with aliens being the ones to fear rather than demons, people nowadays have “alien abduction” experiences during their sleep paralysis episodes. Those are then confirmed by hypnotherapy, where the suggestion of a hypnotist simply confirms the preconceived idea of aliens, and implants false memories.

But most cases, according to my understanding, are not so severe. People simply have hallucinations of a dark or shadowy being in the room with them, which causes feelings of anxiety because they can’t move. This is what I believe the commenter’s brother experienced. Any further detail in the stories people tell has resulted from false memory, which could easily develop by an adult imposing his or her views on a child that experienced such hallucinations. Suggesting detail alters their memory to be in line with your own preconceptions. To children, magic is real, after all. If an adult tells you about something magical that he would like to believe, you accept it at face value, and then incorporate it into your misunderstood perception of whatever really happened, and tell him things that reinforce what he wants to hear.

I had my share of sleep paralysis experiences as a child. Here are some of the more memorable ones…

I was about nine or ten years old, and awoke one night, to find myself sleeping on my stomach, with something sitting on my back. I could not see it and I could not move, and I was absolutely terrified. I lay there in fear and panic for several minutes, which felt like hours, and was so afraid I breathed as quietly as I could, fearing grave consequences should the demon know I was awake. To make maters worse, if I opened my eyes, I could see five little men standing on the edge of my pillow. Eventually, I found that I could move, just my fingers at first, and then realized I was able to move if I wanted. In a mighty thrust and with all the force I could muster, I launched myself up onto my elbows, throwing the beast up in the air and behind me, and then kicked at it with all I had. I then sat up and turned to look behind me, only to find Toby, the family cat, looking back at me with a truly bewildered expression on his little kitty cat face.

On another occasion, when I was younger, I awoke in the middle of the night to see the hideously wrinkled and withered hand of an old woman, in a claw-like grip, clenching my sheet next to my face. Her arm came up from under the bed, and I was terrified but unable to move or do anything about the hag that was laying down there. I lay there in fear for an unknown duration, until I eventually fell back into an uncomfortable sleep dominated by nightmares.

On yet another occasion, I awoke in the middle of the night to see a man standing against the old wooden chest in my room that used to be the stand for a gramophone player. He was standing between it and my bed, wearing a classy suit and staring at me with a fierce and cruel expression on his face, with his right arm outstretched and his index finger pointing directly at me. I saw him and was terrified, but was unable to move or stop looking back. Then he fell forward toward me, as if he were an image on a large cardboard cut-out. Just before he would have touched me, he disappeared.

I had several other experiences as I grew up, some more convincing of the supernatural than others. But I firmly believe that every single one of them had a rational explanation and that there are no such things as ghosts.

Posted in Non-addiction | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Flat Earth, meet Hollow Earth

Oh noooooo. There are people who still believe that the Earth is flat.

2

We also think that the North Pole is located in the center of the Earth, and beyond the border of the planet there is the Antarctic. What you think is the southernmost continent is actually an ice wall which surrounds the Earth. This ice wall is 164 feet tall and holds back water. But we still have debates about what is beyond the wall.

OK. Yes, that makes it all perfectly clear. Hey, at least you can’t sail off the edge.

But there is another important aspect to these strange beliefs… If you believe that the Earth is flat, then not only is all science wrong, but also there must be one hell of a conspiracy by unknown individuals to suppress the truth. (Why?) So this is a conspiracy theory.

That got me thinking… There is another funny conspiracy theory about the Earth: The Hollow Earth conspiracy.

Located at 87.7 degrees North and South Latitude are Polar Openings that lead into the hollow interior of our planet where the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel today dwell in perfect harmony, with life spans equal to those of the Methuselahs of the Bible, whose only desire is to live in peace. Their flying saucers in defense of their country at times are seen on our surface world. They don’t come to destroy, they are waiting…

Waiting for us to discover that world peace is the only answer, not without God, but WITH Him.

Uh-huh.

You know, it is a documented fact that people who believe in conspiracy theories tend to believe in different conspiracies, even if they contradict each other. So I wonder, is there anybody out there who  believes both that the world is flat and hollow? And how does one reconcile this, in one’s tiny brain?

Posted in Conspiracy Theories, Funny, Non-addiction | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Orbs, astrology and ghost sightings… Are they what we think they are?

We all want to believe in the supernatural, don’t we? It starts with us wanting to believe whatever we were taught as children, because we don’t want to know that one day when we die, we might be gone forever, and that our awareness (or our consciousness as is often conflated – despite the fact that conscious merely means awake) will come to an abrupt end. So a spirit realm is nice to have. Even if the explanations of experts don’t always make sense, we can pretend they are complex and that we don’t understand them. Thus any evidence of the supernatural is taken at face value because it supports the kind of reality we want to believe in. Astrology is mysterious enough that it helps support our notion that fate and karma is not man-made, and there is more to life than this. But is there really?

Orbs

This is the easiest one to debunk. The fact is, ghostly orbs didn’t exist until the relatively recent invention of digital photography. If ever you’ve seen them on a ghost hunter television show, you know what orbs look like: Brightly illuminated spheres floating randomly through the air. The key word is randomly because they are carried by the wind. That is, they are particles of dust or other particulate matter, illuminated by a flash, and captured by the digital camera’s best attempt to focus on them. Since they can’t be focused on, they are visible in the captured video as orbs/spheres.

Ghost sightings

Ever had that feeling that, as you walked past an empty room, you saw someone standing there out of the corner of your eye? Hint… We all have. But we don’t all go so far as to manufacture ghost sighting memories afterwards.

The truth is, what you saw was something else, something with a much simpler explanation, in your peripheral vision. The brain tries to build a narrative – this is how we recall memories. But the fact is, there is no special detail there to build on. Any details you “remember” afterwards are of your own making.

That is also how hypnotic memory regression works. There are no details that are lost in our minds… we simply build a well-flowing narrative around the suggestion of the hypnotist. This also explains why past-life regression appears to work. Even if such details can’t possibly be in your mind, you can manufacture those memories with the right combination of suggestion and imagination.

The bottom line – nobody has ever seen a ghost.

Astrology

I have to admit that I once believed in astrology for a few days. You probably think I’m a sceptic doing the “avowal of prior disbelief” trick in reverse, which I suppose would make it the “avowal of prior belief” trick instead, but you’d be wrong. I’ll explain…

Around 2007, my girlfriend believed in astrology (and everything else mystic) but I wasn’t so sure. She asked me to find out about it, and so I did. I started off with the assumption that newspaper and magazine horoscopes were not real astrology. What I wanted was more personalized, as we would get from an astrologer. What we needed was detailed natal charts and reports. I researched getting natal charts as well as astrology software that could produce this. I don’t recall exactly which ones they were, but I found some popular ones with a good reputation, as well as pay-sites that offered simpler reports for free. Having made my selection (that is, I selected one product because I wasn’t interested in playing the various tools against each other to look for conflicting reports), I went about entering our details… name, date of birth, time of birth, place of birth and so on.

This spewed out several pages of finely detailed reports for both of us. We then read them, and both reacted the same way… “Wow… this is so me!” It seemed to be highly accurate, detailing our feelings and motivations for several years. I was immensely impressed, and thought that maybe there was some truth to astrology after all…

And then I came down. We were using a lot of methamphetamine back then. One of the many not-so-great side-effects of meth is sleep deprivation, which in turn results in confusion… It turned out that in my drug-induced stupor, I’d mixed up all the print-outs. Easy enough to do, I suppose? We are both Libras, after all, separated by a mere 18 years. At first, I tried to tell myself that it was the similar star signs that led to my being able to apply her astrological results to myself, and vice versa. But my common sense got the better of me, and I took the next logical step: Input random names, dates and places of birth and see what spews out. Sure enough, I got results that anybody who wanted to believe might cheerfully attribute to themselves.

The moral to this story is this: Despite being high on drugs, and wanting to believe as much as I did, I could not deny the evidence that astrological data contains generic information that we would like to apply to ourselves, and there is really nothing in it. The evidence is overwhelming for anybody who takes the time to investigate it properly: Astrology is bullshit.

Posted in My life, Non-addiction | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

Josh’s sports day: 23rd August 2014

I was mostly too far away to get good shots… So I’ll try to make up for the terrible photos with an amusing anecdote instead.

Back in my day, I used to love sports day. It meant that I’d get to show off as I won the 100m sprint, and depending on the day that could mean my closest competitor was some 30 metres behind me. The cheering felt like I had actual fans, and some of the girls would even cheer for me at the cross-country race as well, even though I was no good at long-distance running. (Um – in the top ten or even the top 5 is no good. Only first place counts.)

But my running ability didn’t develop until I was much older than six year’s old. Oh, we did have a sports day then… I remember it too well. Actually I only remember one race. Everybody had to remove their shoes, then tie them again, and run to a pole and back. Little Jerome was very fussy about his shoelaces – they had to be tied just right. Both laces must be exactly the same length; the laces must be even, then tied carefully… neither too loose nor too tight, with an extra knot for those pesky bullies who like to untie others’ laces. By the time I looked up from tying my laces, everybody else was looong gone, but I ran anyway, all by myself, satisfied that I had tied my laces properly!

Thank goodness Josh didn’t inherit my stubborn obsessiveness… and he ran with the other children, not minutes after them.

Far more graceful than me… I’d probably have rolled this tyre into that guy with the camera.

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He started so well here.

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Oops. Maybe he takes after daddy after all.

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Back on his feet buckets and finished strong.

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Posted in My life, Parenting, Recovery, Relationships | Tagged | 1 Comment

Pet hates part one: Bad grammar and other misuses of language or punctuation that should be known as crimes against humanity

After all the emotionally driven posts it’s time for a change of pace.

I love the access to information that the internet brings. I used to read books, and had a large collection of them, but like everything else, they were lost in my years of active addiction. So these days I read mostly from the internet. But as much good content as there is to be found online, there is significantly more bad content.

The problem is, anybody can write whatever they want, and sometimes it’s difficult to tell the good content from the bad. Much of what I write is my opinion, but I try not to misrepresent opinion as fact. Professionally, my expertise lie in software development, while personally I know an awful lot about using methamphetamine. (Seven years of using every day makes one quite the expert.) I’ll never share any of the latter expertise and I am now totally opposed to the use of all narcotic drugs, even cannabis – which is more harmful than most people think, but with a couple of years clean time, I am happy to share what I have learned in recovery. But I don’t always write about stuff I’m an expert in.

But the type of writing I’d like to complain about today is not writing that anybody should think is credible or reliable. This stuff is just plain bad, and should be avoided at all costs.

Not grammatically incorrect, but annoying as can be

  1. All-uppercase text: There is never a reason to write everything in uppercase. Never, not even to illustrate an example of what you shouldn’t do. Of course, if you are guilty of this, you probably don’t understand what I mean. Uppercase is three syllables, after all. (Then again, so is syllable.) You probably know this as “all caps”.

Seriously, there are better ways to emphasize. And who in their right mind would want to emphasize everything anyway?

Grammatically incorrect. (More like fucking retarded)

I intended starting this off with “Learn how to use the apostrophe”, but then thought better of it… because bad writers seem to mix everything up, so I’ll list a few of my most hated errors, whether they involve apostrophes or not.

You should know however, that apostrophes are used for possession and contraction, except for some special cases,  like “it’s vs. its”, but more on that further on.

  1. Know the difference between your and you’re. Your indicates possession. You’re indicates the contraction of “you are”. For example: You’re really stupid and your brain must be tiny if you can’t understand this simple rule.
  2. Know the difference between there and their. They’re (they are) two completely different words. There is a place. Their is the possessive form of them. For example: Go to their place, over there. That’s where you’ll find Stupid.
  3. Its versus it’s. This is a tough one and doesn’t really belong with the others because we all get it wrong. For example: It’s easy to get it wrong because its difficulty is non-obvious. In this case, the apostrophe is only used for contraction, not possession. So when you contract “it is”, you use the apostrophe, but not otherwise.
  4. To versus too. To is a preposition. Too is an adverb. They’re completely different words, and are even pronounced differently. An example? Seriously, it’s not too difficult to remember this.
  5. Split infinitives. Without going into too much detail to explain what an infinitive form of a verb is, let’s just say that I mean the “full infinitive” form. Now this can get confusing, but when you have the preposition, to, in front of a verb, that verb is said to be in infinitive form. For example: To write. It is an error to put any word between the preposition and the verb. i.e. To badly write, is wrong. To write badly, is right (although in my opinion it is wrong to write badly, and it’s especially wrong to write too badly).

Woo and other incorrect uses of technical terms or scientific jargon to promote nonsense. (Not grammatically wrong, but wrong in so many other ways.)

  1. Any uses of the terms quantum mechanics/physics/theory by anybody who isn’t a scientist discussing science, especially if their name is Deepak Chopra. Whether you use it to ponder existence, or prove the existence of God, or whatever New Age lunacy you believe in, all it does is display your gross ignorance of science. Anybody who does this deserves to be put to death so that they can not find out that they will never meet their maker.
  2. Vibrations is a term that describes mechanical oscillations. Any other usage of that term indicates woo. For example: Cloud Cuckoo Land is a plane on a higher level of astral vibration than this one. Anybody who talks about astral planes and vibrations deserves to be killed, like those above, so that they can then not find out that there is no astral plane. The sooner, the better.

Stupid terms that come from conspiracy theories

There are many more besides those that I’ll indicate here, but since I don’t read conspiracy theory bullshit, these are the common ones that I come across in news media. They annoy me because they have bled through to so-called news and sites that are not exclusively about conspiracies.

  1. Shill. If you read any article anywhere that uses this word, other than to mock conspiracy theorists, you should stop reading it as soon as you see the word. They use it to label sceptics, who doubt their imaginary conspiracies. If you doubt, you must be part of the conspiracy, and are probably employed by the conspiring monopolies/governments/organisations/aliens. (They also often write in all uppercase. Notice that they can safely use words like shill, because it only has one syllable. “Big pharma” is another favourite, although the second word there pushes the boundaries of their little brains, being two syllables.)
  2. False flag. This one illustrates the same principle. Earlier this year, a mentally-challenged couple who believed in all sorts of conspiracies, killed a cop before ending their own pointless lives. Within days, the people they supported, who themselves often called for action against the imaginary conspirers, declared this was a false flag attack. That is, it never happened – it was hoaxed to discredit believers in the conspiracy. Thus, if you believe in a conspiracy enough to go as far as taking action against the enemy, whoever they may be, you become part of the conspiracy.

Racist terms and concepts that also happen to be grammatically wrong and nonsensical

I almost forgot to include this one…

  1. There is no such thing as reverse racism.

Racism is the oppression of a group of people based on their race. So when you (and I mean racist white South Africans) say that the black government is racism in reverse, you reveal not only that you are fucking brain-dead, but also that you are racists yourselves.

Don’t hold your breath waiting for part two… I thought it would be a good way of introducing any future pet hates, but this is all I have for the moment.

Posted in Non-addiction | Tagged , , ,

Have wankers taken over the internet?

Firstly I should mention that I don’t have time to write blogs at work anymore, so I have started a rudimentary manual queuing system, where I save the drafts in Windows Live Writer, and publish them later. (It’s a short queue, and as much as I’d like to write my own program that manages the queue better, I don’t have time for that either.) Although I still usually publish them in the morning, that’s not when I write them. So the recent posts that were removed, which were motivated by valid reasons that I am not mentioning, turned out to be very badly timed. That is, everything seemed to be going fine at home, which resulted in surprise that I had written “bad” things. The truth is sometimes not pleasant.

Update: I finally finished removing those posts mentioned above. Hopefully they are properly invisible now.

Since I do normally have my blog stats open, I may reply to short comments on the blog, but that doesn’t mean that I have the time to deal with excessive personal calls, or reply to long messages received on my mobile phone. Actually the chances of my replying to a long personal message on there is always next to nothing, because I hate using the phone’s on-screen keyboard. I need a computer with physical keyboard so that I can type with both hands. I detest using an on-screen keyboard since it is frustratingly slow.

With that out of the way, time to get on with this post.

I seem to be good at pissing people off lately, so why not return to a topic that had a similar effect on a stranger? Many readers have found their way here looking for “meth and porn”, even one poor fool who searched for something along the lines of “porn video girl smoking meth”… Oh dear, that sounds like a fatal fetish.

Last time I wrote about this, somebody took offense because I implied that all prostitutes, strippers and porn “stars” are drug addicts. He especially took offense to my dismissal of strippers. Here’s the thing – as far as I recall, the definition of whore applies to anyone selling their sex. It’s come to be synonymous with prostitute these days, but the fact is, selling your sex makes you a whore. Whether you let people look at it or penetrate it is irrelevant. I see no reason to differentiate between strippers and others who sell themselves. And it may be the oldest profession, but there are a few other “professions” that are just as old. Substance abuse and addiction has been around for a long time, although there are more substances to abuse today than there were in the past, and there is no motivator to sell yourself quite like it. I sympathize with people who have sunk so low (from a great distance), but do not see any reason to hide my belief that all such people are addicts.

Anyone who suggests that porn “stars” aren’t on drugs needs to be ridiculed. Why do you think they always seem so happy and giggly? It’s because they’re coked up to their eyeballs. They probably don’t use meth, but use other drugs that are just as bad.

But enough about the people who make the porn, what I really want to write about is those who watch it. The person who was offended by my description of strippers also made an interesting implicit assumption that people watch porn alone and masturbate to it. When did this happen? That’s not the purpose of pornography, by the way. Like everything else in the “adult” industry, it is designed for couples, to enhance and improve their sex, indulge their fantasies and so on. If you’re watching it alone, you have a problem.

In my last post on this subject, I mocked other addicts by saying that after the drugs destroy your relationships, the porn will be all you have left. The aim there was innuendo, saying that it would end your relationships and leave you as a lonely wanker to watch porn by yourself. That is, you’ll end up that way. I never presumed that you watch it alone already. What’s the point of that?

I also commented that when the drugs destroy your relationships, you’ll lose everything by selling it or having it stolen, even your porn. Of course I assumed that you actually purchased it at an adult store, as I used to. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but when I was still into porn, we used to go to such a store together and select the stuff we wanted, which then left us with actual DVDs, complete with glossy covers, that down the line could be lost, stolen or sold. I wasn’t thinking of downloading porn, which is another matter altogether. Sure, there are pay-sites, but there are also millions of free sites where you can download the stuff without paying a cent. In preparation for this post, I took a peek. As usual, I take the comments on such a site as being representative of typical users, and hence this post’s title. Downloading porn is a pastime of lonely wankers. The internet is overflowing with them. (Insert cum-shot pun here. Sorry, I can’t come up with anything substantial right now. I have a headache.)

Having said that (I mean written but I love that expression for some reason), I’ll switch the subject temporarily to one of my own crazy fiascos from the past. I was near the end of my relapse… actually I had cleaned up, but then in events that would upset some if I wrote them, I had my heart broken twice and was unable to cope, in that round of interviews, and found myself in an interview as high as could be. Somehow they found out about my past, and though I don’t normally lie, I told them the one lie I have alluded to in the past – that I was clean and in recovery even though I wasn’t. So I got the job.

I hated that job. It was a great company, and was what for many might have been a “dream job”. The work was easy, and they didn’t give me much anyway, and the developers got to work around 9 to 10AM, and left at 3PM. Essentially they paid me R40k a month to do very little and be bored out of my mind. In addition to this, I didn’t fit in. They also gave me a dongle with a couple of Gigs of data every month, which I abused terribly – I was tweaking all night every night after all – until they fired me.

But the way I got fired was very funny (only to me, of course). Though I had gone through a phase of being one of those lonely wankers, it didn’t last long. Truth be told, I don’t get my jollies watching a bunch of happy-go-fucky coke heads pulverizing each other’s privates. It gets boring very quickly. I downloaded movies, music, developer tools, and tweaked the night away writing my own code. Oddly, I went through quite a lengthy phase in that relapse of being perfectly capable of doing my work, and writing some good quality programs. (Later versions of which are featured on my programming blog.) I went to a great deal of effort to hide what I was really up to on that computer. Everything I worked on was hidden away in a TrueCrypt (which is now deprecated, I see) encrypted volume.

However, the other developer there talked about porn a great deal. I soon realized that he was trying some sort of twisted good-cop trick on me, like the Reid interrogation technique, to extract incriminating information about what I was doing on that computer. So I gave him what he wanted… and left a good amount of browser history of porn-related sites. They then took the laptop from me, found the “incriminating” evidence, and fired me, after amusingly reading a lot more into what I said than what was there and contriving even more that I never said at all, which took about two months, effectively giving me a lengthy paid holiday while I found another job.

Yes, it was not sensible. But that’s the sort of crazy shit I got up to on drugs (in my relapse, not the first time around) – when I wasn’t tweaking my head off I was playing intellectual psycho games with any perceived enemy. (Paranoia makes lots of enemies.) I didn’t care about my reputation – I just didn’t put that job on my CV, so officially it never happened. I do find the whole thing funny in retrospect, because it didn’t even matter that what they found didn’t explain the huge amount of data I had used. They simply stopped looking for evidence because they found porn.

Anyway, getting back to those people who get off on downloading porn… I don’t get it. Looking at their comments, they must be incredibly stupid. Who would try to insult a whore by telling her that he wants to “fuck her up the ass”? She probably does that every day. Never mind that she will never read your comment, since you are viewing the stolen porn content on a free “tube” site that she will never visit. She’s too busy anyway, what with spending the hundreds of thousands of dollars she earns, on cocaine.

Their attempted insults remind me of John Cleese in the scene from (I think) Quest For the Holy Grail, where he plays a Frenchman, hurling attempted insults that are not really insulting at the British. I use this particular one for my Skype status:

I don’t wanna talk to you no more, you empty headed animal food trough wiper! I fart in your general direction! Your mother was a hamster and your father smelled of elderberries!

Posted in Meth, My life, Recovery, Relapse, Tweaking | Tagged | 6 Comments

Is salt good or bad for you?

After reading this post, I’m not so sure. It raises the possibility that too little salt might be even more dangerous than too much! I just so happen to like salt, and sugar, and pepper, and chillies, garlic, oregano… and a quite few other spices, but mostly salt, especially if it’s because I’m eating bacon. Preferably piles of the stuff. ‘Scuse me – I have to make myself something to eat…

Posted in Non-addiction | Tagged ,

Sometimes I overthink stuff too much

Sometimes I overthink things – sometimes simple things that don’t deserve much thought invested in them at all. And then I overthink the overthinking… It’s really quite silly. I wonder how many of us do this?

Case in point, the title of yesterday’s post was “Alone at last”. I put far too much thought into those three words, and then last night as I lay in bed, I thought about it even further, thinking that my intention for the title probably failed, and anyone who read it missed the wordplay. I like to play with words, but the problem with wordplay is that it’s easy to miss, so I figured that having it in the title would draw attention. How did you read it. Here is what I intended – ambiguity that could be read a couple of different different ways:

  1. Irony. It says the opposite of what I really mean. It implies a positive when it is really negative.
  2. Risqué. “Alone at last” is a cliché that’s commonly used to imply that two people are alone together, at last… and can get up to some mischief. The sexually suggestive innuendo was supposed to work as click-bait, inspired by so many others who write titles just to attract page-views.

But last night it occurred to me that my little wordplay was surely lost on most, who just assumed that my title was supposed to be positive, which it wasn’t.

See what I mean? That’s an awful lot of thought for three words. Thought that could have been devoted to something more important. Oh well…

Posted in My life, Non-addiction | Tagged ,

Why is skepticism important?

This talk by Daniel Loxton at TAM 2014 answers the question in a rare and beautiful way.

Posted in Non-addiction | Tagged

Vitamins are great if you like to piss all the colours of the rainbow

Something I’ve been saying for years… Vitamin aisles in the pharmacy are a great place to waste your money on supplements that are most probably completely unnecessary, yet so many people believe in them. My mother takes vitamin C every day in the mistaken belief that it will save her from catching a cold. I know of many others who have similar misconceptions, and reasoning with them is impossible. They tell me I talk nonsense. But c’mon, when last did you hear of somebody who died from scurvy?

The truth is, every time I’ve ever taken vitamin supplements, all that I ever gained is colourful urine. These things are called micronutrients for a reason – you need them in minute quantities, with your food. This article on the science-based medicine blog seems to agree with me.

Posted in Non-addiction | Tagged ,

On addiction, depression and the untimely death of Robin Williams

I was shocked yesterday when I heard about Robin Williams’ suicide. Shocked, but not surprised. The truth is that for whatever reason, he was on my mind a couple of days ago, and I had intended writing a post about him anyway. Now I’m glad I didn’t. I’ll write a little of what would have been in that post, but now my tone is, of course, quite different to what it would have been.

My starting point was an observation, from a television  interview with him years ago, I think just after Mrs Doubtfire was released. I remember thinking to myself that this man is a genius, he is gifted, he is great at what he does, but something is also clearly very wrong. Nobody can be so funny all the time, and evade all the serious questions, answering them with jokes instead. Nobody can be so quick-witted, and say things that go over so many people’s heads all the time. I remember thinking, this man has problems, and he is also clearly very high.

Now I’d like to draw your attention to two articles. The first is an homage to him by a fellow comedian, Jim Norton, on time.com. Norton acknowledges his own battle with addiction as an introduction, and mentions how he “always feels a more intense sense of loss when a fellow alcoholic or addict commits suicide”. He does not directly refer to Williams’ addiction after that, but it’s all there if you read between the lines. The tone of the article does well to convey his feelings of sadness, that someone who was so loved by so many, could so hate himself.

This article on CNN.com buries the truth in a statement well into the article:

Williams made at least two trips to rehab for drug treatment, including a visit this summer, and he underwent heart surgery in 2009.

This summer… That’s telling.

Williams was not a stereotypical drug addict, the way most of us expect addicts to be. We think they are losers who never amount to anything. Thus most would never recognize him for what he was, or ever be able to comprehend the battle he fought, and ultimately lost, with the beast of addiction. The truth is, addiction takes the best and the worst of us. It does not discriminate. Many of us fight it, but we don’t all win. This should be a warning to us all, how terrible an affliction it is; how it can drive a man who is loved my millions to have such little self-worth, that he can take his own life. Robin Williams should still be with us. But I fear most of us will not see this warning for what it is.

Posted in Addiction, Recovery | Tagged | 8 Comments

Blog-racing. My new obsession.

 Madness. This must be some kind of madness.

So I wrote two blog-posts today, neither of which are particularly good, one on each blog:

  1. Everything is AWESOME on here… A tongue in cheek look at the Lego movie as a metaphor for our screwed up society.
  2. How to force (hack?) kendo-ui grid to display the correct date on the other blog… A solution to work around a bug in the kendo-ui grid, related to one of the annoying development tasks I worked on today.

And now I sit, in between development tasks, switching between two tabs of the browser, where I have the dashboard for each blog open, comparing the number of views of the two posts. (This blog has just slipped behind, with 59 views, while the enemy has 64 views.) Yes, I’m racing against myself, like some kind of fucking loon! Aaargh! WTF is wrong with me?!? Then to make matters worse, I should be on my way home already, and instead I am writing this drivel!

Seriously, I hope I am not the only person who does this…

Update: And the winner (for view count yesterday) is the other blog, with 104 views. This one only got 74 views.

Posted in Non-addiction | Tagged ,

Everything is AWESOME

If you have small children, you have no doubt, like myself, seen The Lego Movie at least once by now… I still can’t make up my mind if I love or hate the movie, but I must acknowledge how clever a movie it is. I’m not referring to the graphics, and how everything is made out of Lego, but the story.

I recall from my youth how people sometimes read all kinds of weird and not-so-wonderful things into children’s stories. When I was around 12, someone wrote about the Smurfs being incestuous occult figures… Papa Smurf uses magic, and there is only one female adult Smurf, who presumably is mother to all Smurfs. (Hello, never mind that it imposed adult knowledge onto a children’s story, and introduced an appeal to consequences and false dilemma.) It makes me wonder if anyone has read anything subversive into the Lego Movie. The thing is, there is plenty to see there if you look for it.

Emmet is an ordinary guy, a carbon copy of everyone else, who blindly and obediently follows the rules. They all sing the same song, Everything is Awesome; they all do the same thing every day, and end the day by watching the same comedy on TV with the same joke that isn’t really funny, “Where are my pants?”.

The parallels with us “sheeple” are hard to miss. We may not listen to the same song over and over, but we do listen to music generated by the music industry, a huge money-making machine. For example, Rihanna, who is so popular with so many people. (I admit, I do like one or two of her songs, but not more than that.) The truth is, almost all her music is the same song, over and over again, with the same subject: Sex, or at least the promise of sex.

And as for the TV show, it reminds me of something that almost everybody loves, except for little old me: The Big Bang Theory. I’ve heard people say how “true to life” that show is, and they discuss what is essentially the same stupid jokes broadcast over and over again. They carry on about, for example, the character Sheldon, super-genius, as though he really is one. Even watchmojo.com made a video about geniuses in television shows. But the truth is, he is playing a stereotype. Who says geniuses have to be skinny effeminate little men with squeaky voices? [1]

We soak it all up, just like Emmet in The Lego Movie. So there’s some really clever writing going on there. I don’t believe it is meant to be taken seriously, but I do think it is deliberate. That is, the writers took some inspiration from actual modern society. Whether they are poking fun at us for our religion, and Cloud Cuckoo Land [2] has some hidden meaning too, or they are poking fun at conspiracy theory culture, they are poking fun. And it is funny.

I think, in some ways, conspiracy theory culture is not that different from my mind-set… They’ve recognized that we are a brainwashed society, and that we should question our reality. They just question the wrong things, and come to the wrong conclusions. We are not being controlled by our governments, or the evil Semites, or the Illuminati, or the Reptilians. (I believe that CT’s, besides being crackpots who see weird conspiracies not realistic at all, perceive the world in terms of their pre-existing beliefs. So it’s not too far-fetched for them to leap to conclusions involving demons or aliens, and question authority rather than their preconceptions of gods, demons and aliens, as well as their own religious as well as cultural upbringing.)  We are indoctrinated by our religious upbringing, and we brainwash ourselves with our nonsensical beliefs. We are slaves to our culture. The fact that much of society has now realized that something about the way we see the world is off-kilter is a good thing. Everything is not awesome.

[1]: Not that there is anything wrong with being a skinny effeminate little man with a squeaky voice… But I associate that with a campy gay man, not a genius. Not that there is anything wrong with being gay, camp or otherwise – but I do struggle to see why anyone should perceive any correlation with high intelligence.

[2]: I’m really temped to refer to Heaven as Cloud Cuckoo Land going forward. Too bad most people will not get the reference. (And it will soon be dated anyway.)

Update: Damn. I see that Cloud Cuckoo Land was already an allusion that I didn’t get.

Posted in Non-addiction | Tagged , , , ,

Good movie, bad movie – A review of two recent home movies

We hired and watched two movies in two days, and the contrast between their quality is so great, I feel compelled to write reviews of them both.

Ritual (2013)

(The heading above links to the trailer.) This was the worst movie I have seen for a long time. It’s supposed to be violent, shocking and suspenseful, but the movie-makers failed to deliver the goods on every count, which turns out to be the only shocking achievement.

The acting was bad; the script was poor; the female lead character is named Lovely. I kid you not. Imagine a scene where, to build suspense, the filmmakers let the audience in on a not-so-little secret… that there is something of interest in one corner of the room. Then, they pan the camera this way and that – up and down, left and right, round and round and back again, then twist a little this way, that way, and pan some more… Eventually, ten tedious minutes later, they get around to revealing the corner that you actually want to see. The end result is not suspense, it is boredom on a level that no other movie can produce. Every scene becomes predictable, and the occasional violence does little to maintain your interest, let alone scare you even an iota.

Imagine that tedium applied to every instant in the movie, and just for good measure, throw in dialog that has no relevance whatsoever to advancing the plot, or the characters’ backstories, or anything else that provides any meaning to this dreadful waste of viewing time. Take my word for it. Ritual is a movie to miss.

13 Sins

Here’s the trailer:

 

I was seriously doubting my judgement in choosing movies to hire, and then by choosing this, I proved myself not to be an idiot after all.

I won’t give anything away, except my initial impression of the movie from the cover blurb before hiring it: This one reminds me of The Game, with Michael Douglas. What would you do, if offered more money than you could ever otherwise gain in your lifetime, by committing 13 offenses, starting with something simple?

Posted in Non-addiction | Tagged , ,

Remember kids, Ginseng is great for your virility, because the root kind of looks like a phallus

Just a quick one today.

Maybe it’s my age; maybe it’s the stress at work; I don’t know… but I often wake up feeling tired, and it’s all downhill from there. Since I work in an office tower that’s attached to a shopping centre, it seemed like the logical choice would be to head into the shops in mid-afternoon, and purchase an energy drink.

I tried one of those Monster energy drinks, and wondered why it didn’t do anything other than leave an unpleasant taste lingering on my tongue for far too long… Then I looked at the ingredients and remembered something I read years ago… OK, so there are a few different varieties of energy drink (with slightly different ingredients), but what struck me as dumb about the one I bought was that it featured Ginseng as a major ingredient. And we all know that Ginseng gets its reputation, primarily for boosting men’s virility, because the root is shaped vaguely like a phallus, right? Fucking brilliant, so why should I expect that any of the other ingredients actually do anything?

Bottom line, my solution to having more energy in future, is to try getting better quality sleep. I won’t waste any more money on energy drinks, and I suggest we all do the same.

Posted in Non-addiction | Tagged , ,

A milestone of sorts

Actually this is a tad premature, and I can’t remember the exact date, but nevertheless, next month will mark a year since Megan returned to my life, and it will also mark one year clean together. That’s something several people, including myself, did not think possible for a while. But we’ve made it. (That is, we will make it next month.) There was also a time for me when even a month’s clean time felt like some kind of impossible dream. Now it’s nothing, so I have no issue with writing this a month early.

Perhaps we should celebrate with a bottle of bubbly? I jest, of course, but the simple truth is that the idea that I can not drink is one of the many things they “taught” to us at rehab that I don’t  believe. I’ve never been a drinker, never had a problem with alcohol, and so I am quite content to have some champagne twice a year with meals (at Christmas and New Year’s eve), safe in the knowledge that the warm feeling it leaves in my tummy is the only consequence.

I believe that the idea that we (i.e. recovering addicts) can not drink is an example of the nocebo effect. That is, it is harmless, but if you believe that it will do you harm, and you take a drink, you will then go out and act out what you believe will come about. That is, it’s not the alcohol that harms your recovery (and possibly leads to relapse), it’s the belief that this will happen. Life is what you make it.

But let’s not spoil this occasion by documenting all the things about a conventional approach to recovery that I do not believe. We actually spoke about recovery last night, although briefly – for less than a minute. Megan posited that I don’t take recovery seriously. She’s not the first person to say this, so this next bit is not just for her: Just because I don’t approach recovery the same way as you think I should, doesn’t mean I am not serious. Just because I don’t believe the same nonsense that you believe, doesn’t mean that I don’t care. I take both life and recovery very seriously indeed, and my perspective is just a little different to yours. Just because you do not understand it, does not take away its value.

There is much more for me to say, but it deviates from this subject and this milestone, so I’ll leave it for another day.

Posted in Addiction, Meth, My life, Recovery, Relationships | 1 Comment

Hate speech should never be tolerated

A couple of days ago I posted a video featuring James Randi questioning the Bible. What struck me when viewing that video on YouTube was the very first comment, by a pissed off religious homophobe. So rather than reply to the fool as others did, I simply flagged his comment as hate speech. Now I can’t see it anymore.

I visited that YouTube page again now, and I can still see the comment if I am not logged in, but as soon as I log in, it disappears. Good enough for me. I don’t know exactly how this works, but maybe if enough people flag comments, the accounts can be closed. These people need to be silenced. There is no need for the opinions of a few bigots to spoil your online experience.

Anyway, I see the fool made another comment, so I captured some screenshots showing you how to flag comments, in case you don’t know.

  1. Mouse-over the top right-hand corner, and click the little circle with the down-pointing triangle that appears.HatredGoodbye01
  2. Click the Report spam or abuse menu item.HatredGoodbye02
  3. Tick the appropriate radio box, and click Continue.
  4. There you go…HatredGoodbye03

There is no reason to tolerate those kinds of comments. Surely we could all recognize that this is a homophobe making an ad hominem attack. Don’t reply and thus encourage people like this. Always flag them and move on. I take a few minutes to peruse the comments of each video I view, and flag all the haters and spammers. It makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside…

Posted in Non-addiction | Tagged

Keep your eyes on the road

Not what I planned to write this morning, but two accidents in two days have changed my mind. (Actually this was yesterday morning – but that’s as far as I got in the draft because work demanded my full attention from early on.)

The two accidents in reverse chronological order…

Yesterday, just as I walked out of the crèche where I dropped Aishah, as I walked up their driveway towards their car, I heard a crash coming from immediately in front of me (in the main road parallel to the service road where the crèche is located) in Louis Botha Avenue. As I looked up I saw something hitting the front of a brand new BMW. At first I thought about those damn reckless BMW drivers, thinking they “own the road”… but it’s best not to generalize. It turned out I was wrong. The BMW driver was a victim in this accident, someone who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Actually he was driving safely, and was more than two car lengths behind the car in front of him. Had he been closer, it could have been much worse.

There have been road-works going on there for several months now. It turns out that the workers dug a channel, about half a meter wide, across the road, then filled it with sand, much of which blew away. The driver in front of the BMW, in a hatchback, the make and model I do not know, drove over the man-made pothole too fast, and may have bumped the car in front of him – I’m not sure. The result of his reckless driving was that somehow his entire front bumper became detached, in one large piece. After it detached, instead of getting stuck under his wheels, it flew up over his roof, and collided with the front of the BMW behind him. This all happened in less than half a second.

The previous accident was on Sunday, in the same road as I live. I went to Balfour Park, the local shopping centre, to buy milk tart to have with tea. I got there just after the accident happened, whereupon I found a motorized scooter smashed into several pieces right beside the entrance.

So why am I writing this? As I drove to work yesterday, I observed not one, but two women putting on their make-up as they drove to work. WTF? Texting is bad… we all know that, but anything else that takes your eyes off the road is just as bad. I don’t care how well you think you can multitask – when you’re looking at your ugly mug in your rear-view mirror, you might see what’s happening behind you, but you’re not looking in front of you, nor to the sides, nor… You get the drift. (But just in case you do not… Accidents happen quickly. If you’re paying attention, you might be able to prevent a potential accident. That’s when someone else causes it. You definitely shouldn’t be so distracted that you cause an accident yourself.) Why not wake up ten minutes earlier, so you don’t have to risk your life, as well as everybody else on the road with you? Nobody gives a fuck how good your make-up is when you’re in your coffin.

Posted in Non-addiction | Tagged ,

Questioning the Bible

Due to some issues at work today, I was too busy to blog even in the early morning, and am too tired to write what’s on my mind now, but am never too tired to watch interesting videos. Check out this one where James Randi asks some interesting questions of that old rag of Christian mythology, the Bible.

Posted in Non-addiction | Tagged , ,

Another dumb search for me to mock

In case you don’t already know, every so often I look at the blog statistics, particularly the search queries that brought readers here. They’ll generally be “hits” due to something I already wrote, which then matched the search engine search. Of course search strings also might match by accident, or they might inadvertently reveal something about the motivation of the searcher. Sometimes that’s enough for me to write something else, usually to make fun of the searcher. (Always tongue in cheek of course, as I used to be one of them.)

This one has been in the blog stats for a while:

boyfriend is a paranoid meth user

So what is your actual question? There are a few possibilities I can think of, in terms of your reason for searching, but none of them are good. I was going to list them all in bullet form, from least to most likely, but I’ll spare you that mockery today, and just write the least and most likely instead:

  • Least likely: Your boyfriend uses meth and you don’t… What are you doing with him then? Meth doesn’t only make him paranoid. It makes him suspicious, unreliable, unstable, it makes him tweak for hours or maybe days on stupid repetitive tasks, and it also makes him horny – probably enough to act out his sexual fantasies – with or without you, which probably also means it’s time to have something done about that itchy vagina of yours because those STDs he’s passing around are nasty. And maybe it’s time for an HIV test?
  • Most likely: You both use. You think your boyfriend is paranoid, because he is paranoid, but that should really be the least of your worries. It’s easy to see the madness in others, but not in yourself. Truth be told, you are as fucked up as he is and you just can’t see it.

Enjoy the rest of your trip… And when you’re done, maybe consider getting some help. Internet searches won’t fix this, by the way.

Posted in Addiction, Advice, Meth, Recovery | Tagged , ,

Why recovery is difficult

Firstly, I need to introduce this with a warning to other recovering addicts, especially those in early recovery: My approach to recovery is not “standard”, assuming such a concept exists. I hate NA meetings; I don’t believe in the 12-step plan; I don’t have a sponsor; I do not believe in God and in fact am more than just an atheist – I lean towards being an antitheist atheist; and I avoid all other addicts, even those in recovery, if at all possible. (Except for Megan; I can’t avoid her but we never talk about addiction, or recovery, or the past. Well, I bring up the subject(s) sometimes but she refuses to engage me on it.) I’m not saying that my way is the right way, because I don’t believe for a moment that there is a single “correct” approach to recovery. So my warning is that you must not assume that everything that I state is correct, or that everything that you are taught in rehabilitation is correct either. Do not approach recovery with a closed mind. Question everything and everyone, because even the so-called experts with their rigid approach to recovery and their insistence on that being the only way to do it, are fallible.

I am still required to complete an outpatient program, before getting Josh back, and my employer knows about this, but I haven’t gotten around to starting it yet. There was another program that I did complete, but this one remains. Ironically when I do reluctantly attend meetings, I can’t help but participate, and even enjoy doing so, but that’s not the point.

So with all that in mind, here is my subjective opinion on why recovery is difficult, and also why getting out of active addiction and into recovery in the first place is almost impossible. I take my proverbial hat off to all recovering addicts for getting into recovery in the first place. You are in the minority – I’m pretty certain that most addicts will never recover.

Edit (for update and clarification): Regarding my statement above, “I’m pretty certain that most addicts will never recover.” Yes, I know my title uses part of the NA literature, We do recover, and this post is somewhat negative, but that’s the way I feel. I believe that most addicts will never even attempt recovery. And of those who try, we might not all make it. (I have no idea what the statistics are.) I hope that we all can recover though, and by all I mean all who attempt recovery. But the fact is, most of the addicts I knew back in active addiction didn’t even know that recovery was an option, and I figure it is likely that way everywhere.

I also don’t normally care to mention my clean time anymore. My reasons for this are not relevant to this post. But since my current clean time is relevant, I’ll mention that it has now been more than two years since my last hit.

I believe that most people who are not addicts themselves will never understand this, but I’ll try to make them understand, to the best of my ability, anyway… To understand active addiction, you need to understand this: Once an addict has used a drug every day for a few years, they really do need that drug. I’m not going to say that they think they need it. They fucking need it! The drug becomes as important as the air you breathe; the water you drink. Having a hit of your drug of choice before doing anything at all becomes no less important than putting on your clothes before you step outside.

In active addiction, there is never a matter of making an intelligent, rational and logical choice… You don’t ever weigh up two options… say for instance remembering your mother’s birthday and buying her a present, versus buying drugs if you have run out. There is no choice. Since the drug is essential for survival in the mind of the addict, it will always come first. If there is enough money left afterwards for mom’s birthday gift, then she gets one. No choice is made, and no harm is intended. Obviously that approach to everything in life leads to disaster, but you shrug it off, as long as you get your drug, because it is more important than anything else.

So getting out of that situation, and into recovery, is impossible to do alone, no matter how good your intentions. You will always go back to the drug, because it is more important than anything else in your life. The drug is life.

So once an addict gets help from other people, and gets into rehab, which results in a few short months clean time, does it all go away? No, of course it doesn’t! The fact is, the first few months clean, you just manage to convince yourself that this is only temporary… Deep down you still believe that you need the drug, and that you will continue when it is safe to do so.

But it is never safe.

One of the reasons I don’t like the twelve step programs is that they, with their “just for today” approach, allow the addict to stay in that state that they were in during rehab. They don’t deal with their real underlying issues, but instead take solace in not being alone, but remain in that temporary clean state, while deep down the need to use never really goes away. I’m being unfair, I suppose, because at the end of the day, however you manage to stay clean isn’t important, as long as you do manage to stay clean. But I do not believe in 12-step plans, and I do not believe that they do anything to justify the huge amount of work we are supposed to invest in “step work”. I’d rather play with my son, or do my work, or do anything else that is useful in my life, than believing in any false sense of fellowship that does nothing for me when I go home, or place faith in a fictional higher power when there are important people and activities that are far more useful to me. I also don’t believe in making amends. What’s done is done.

The point is, after years of using, that inner need to use never goes away completely. It’s like an excruciating nagging itch, while walking in public. You can’t scratch that itch without sticking your hand in your pants and making an obscene scene, but as soon as you’re alone, you’ll scratch until you bleed.

My major downfall when I first started recovery was to try to suppress that need. I tried to pretend that it wasn’t real, that I didn’t really want to use. Then when things went wrong (and they always do) I wasn’t able to cope with them, and went straight back into active addiction for a time.

Now I don’t supress it. I face it. When I want to use, although it happens far less frequently now (but it does happen), I don’t try to push it away and pretend it didn’t happen. I imagine the consequences of what would happen if I did use. I imagine the guilt that I’d feel after taking that first hit, the guilt that comes too late. And then, I feel that guilt, even though it hasn’t happened. It makes all the difference; feeling the guilt before it is too late, and it takes the craving away every time.

There are other difficulties in recovery, of course, and I don’t mean to trivialize them. You have to deal with the consequences of active addiction for a long time after cleaning up; deal with all the damage done to relationships; deal with financial consequences, and this is not even taking the normal difficulties in life after starting over into account.

But there is light at the end of this tunnel. When things go wrong for me now, the desire to use is never the first thing I feel. Time does make a difference, and it appears to get easier when you have been drug-free for a while. But it is important to keep in mind that the deep-down need to use is always there. Pretending that it isn’t is suicide, at least in my mind, so it is imperative always to be aware of the danger of giving in to that nagging itch.

Update: (Unusual for me to do this… I haven’t published yet.) Megan saw this post and asked me what it was about. Apparently she never craves. Good for her. So maybe I’m wrong and that nagging need to use is not the same for everybody. But to be safe, it’s probably best for us all to assume that it is, and always be prepared to deal with it.

Posted in Addiction, Advice, Meth, My life, Recovery, Relapse, Relationships

Josh at Social Services family preservation event 01 August 2014

This morning we had to attend an event hosted by Social Development at a high school in Johannesburg. It was a tedious affair, and not the best waste of my valuable work time, so I wasn’t in the best of moods. The social worker gave me a letter explaining how I had to be there, but as usual, she doesn’t seem to understand that regardless of whether I had to be there or not, my work deadlines, volume of work and the pressure on me to get it done remains the same. (Edit: Actually the work-pressure increases because my deadlines don’t move.)

Then, at the end of the event, Josh saved the day. A couple of African dancers were shaking their asses on stage, when many others, several of them children, including Josh, decided to join them. His dancing skills may be nothing to boast of, but he accomplished something that I certainly can not (I’m far too shy), and made the whole day worthwhile. I caught it all on video, but since it was taken on my mobile phone, you’ll have to rotate your screen (or your head) to see it nicely. (Edit: Never mind… I see YouTube detected which way to display it somehow.) At the end, one of the dancers holds up his hand, and the crowd cheers, making this a special memory…

Posted in My life, Parenting, Recovery, Relationships | Tagged | 1 Comment

Could intelligent aliens exist, and other interesting questions

Every now and then, I get blown away by someone else’s writing, and it is always a pleasure when it happens. I love reading, far more than I enjoy writing, and when I find something that is written well enough to be interesting, informative as well as easy to read, which is rare, I’m always glad because it is a great opportunity to learn from others wiser than myself.

Yesterday’s post was liked by one other blogger, and I’m especially enjoying his writing style, which is so different to mine. Though I read a fair amount, my writing style is always mostly simple and direct (apart from my annoying habit of over-using ellipses – sometimes even on purpose when I want to break the rhythm and force the reader to reread something), because my vocabulary is not so great. So check out his most recent post on his opinion of whether or not other intelligent life exists. Hopefully you’ll enjoy it as much as I did. (And so ends my blogging for the day…. Time to do my work.)

Posted in Non-addiction | Tagged | 2 Comments

Magic isn’t real

Yesterday, as I drove to pick Aishah up from the crèche, this is how a conversation ended:

Me: Magic isn’t real.
Her: Of course it is!
Me: Magic isn’t real.
Her: Of course it is!

You might say that I didn’t try very hard, but I am a little weary by now. So many times, so many years… so many beliefs in so much nonsense. It all gets a bit too much.

The context of the conversation was a series that we’d been watching together, Witches of East End. I downloaded season one on Sunday, and we finished watching it last night. Megan had complained that the magic in the show is too far fetched and impossible, unlike real magic.

How many people believe that magic is real? I know I’d like it to be real. When I was a child and my father drove us through Cape Town, I used to like to look out the window at the mountains and the ocean, imagining myself flying, soaring like Superman over them, rising up slowly and swooping down at enough speed to give me a great rush of adrenaline. I wished it could be real, and I wanted to believe that I could fly. But that didn’t make it so.

I’d love to know what Megan thinks real magic is… The truth is, and I know this is a bad example because most people are religious, belief in magic is no different to belief in God. You can delude yourself into believing that you have a personal relationship with your God, even though he doesn’t actually exist. You can convince yourself that your god answers your prayers. Likewise, you can delude yourself into believing magic is working in your life. You can see all the signs you want, proving that it is real. But that doesn’t make it so.

Seeing signs of your god, or magic, is just motivated reasoning. The truth is, there is no magic, no psychics or mediums are genuine, astrology isn’t real, all “evidence” for the paranormal is either blurred photos that people who want to believe in convince themselves is real evidence, or hoaxed. Sure, if you look around you will find many believers in magic, many experts who can tell you all about your aura, your chakras and the astral plane. They have gone too far down that rabbit hole and convinced themselves that it is all real, even though there is not a shred of evidence for any of it. They’re more similar to people who devote their entire lives to a god that doesn’t exist than most people will ever care to admit. They really do want all those things, including magic, to be real. But that doesn’t make it so.

Posted in Non-addiction | Tagged , ,

Hidden Posts

In case anyone notices that today’s post disappeared… I have been a little insensitive to someone by writing some stuff that I shouldn’t have – so those posts will be removed until further notice.

Posted in Uncategorized

The magical powers of crystals, a bronze age paradise and an ancient matriarchal civilization that ruled the land through the wise vibrations of the sin wave

Oh, this is just too funny not to share. Jason Colavito wrote an hilarious review of an article published on the Graham Hancock website. It’s a crazy mishmash of several different lunatic fringe theories and new age nonsense all thrown together and mixed into a psychedelic potpourri of preposterousness.

My title tries to paraphrase the lot in one line, but falls dismally short… trust me. (“Sin wave” is not my misspelling, by the way.) That people can believe in such madness never ceases to amaze me. My original motivation for my interest in all things related to the lunatic fringe was altogether another matter… Back in 2006/07, Megan went through several phases of interest in Wicca as well as the “healing power of crystals”. I, as her other half, had to support her in her mad pursuits, and “research” all the crazy shit. Despite being an addict who used an awful lot of methamphetamine every day back then, I was never quite deluded enough to believe in any of it, and so I spent an equal amount of time printing out the garbage as well as skeptical material debunking it. Yet I never succeeded in making her see that it was all bullshit.

Anyway, I do find it endlessly amusing that so many people believe in nonsense that is so crazy, I couldn’t even be stupid enough to believe in it while I was drugged out of my fucking mind. Seriously, read the article that breaks down this madness. It’s so funny, it really is quite sad.

Posted in Non-addiction | Tagged , ,

Josh at the park on 26th July 2014

Just three photos this time. Josh was with us on Saturday for lunch and supper. While Megan scrambled to get supper ready, since he had to be back at Abby by 6PM (and didn’t make it, so Josh ended up eating McDonalds for supper), I took him to a local park. This meant I had to spend too much time running after him, and ended up dead tired. But as always, he is worth it…

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Posted in My life, Parenting, Recovery, Relationships | Tagged | 1 Comment

Some searches for me to mock

It’s that time again. Megan is baking some scones – something I always appreciate. We don’t have cream, so I will go buy some as soon as she is done. In the meantime I had a look at the blog stats, and some strange searches that ended up here. Why not respond to them in my idle minutes?

meth and sleep apnea?

Er, you are confused. Meth makes you stay awake. You don’t have sleep apnea – you’re just high. Get some help.

meth intimate relationships

I’m skipping the searches to do with meth and porn, because I wrote about that before.

Meth destroys your relationships. It doesn’t enhance them. It makes you high, as well as horny. It makes you and your partner promiscuous, as well as paranoid. Your partner may well end up cheating on you, but whether or not they do is not important, because you will probably think that they are. (Because it makes you paranoid, stupid.)

Seriously, sex on meth is like masturbating with a partner. Sex is not supposed to be all about yourself and your own pleasure, but on any narcotic drug, that’s what it is reduced to. Whether or not you include porn doesn’t really matter… although it usually starts out that way. Porn can be a great way of spicing up your sex life if you watch it together, but after the drugs destroy your relationships, the drugs and maybe the porn (that’s not stolen or sold) will be all you have left. You need help.

Posted in Recovery | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

A solar storm nearly destroyed Earth two years ago?

Hmm… Another site to add to my growing list of sites that publish nonsense. How good is your capacity to think critically? According to news.com.au, the planet was nearly plunged into the dark ages two years ago by a solar flare. (Notice how much the article body contradicts the title? It goes from nearly destroyed to plunged back into the dark ages.)

You shouldn’t have to be a scientist to figure out that this is more than a stretch. Last time I checked, this planet still had a magnetic field. (And if we didn’t, like Mars – where the planet core that creates one has already cooled down – solar flares would have “blown” our atmosphere away a long time ago; so to put it into perspective, electromagnetic disruptions are not what needs to be feared. And our planet’s core is going to be doing just fine for some time to come.) Retrospective fear mongering… that’s got to be a new one.

Posted in Non-addiction | Tagged , ,

Drug tests and false positives

Hmm… I didn’t see this site before.

Interesting one, that. My cold came back, and I have been taking my prescribed Advil CS again, which will give a false positive for amphetamine. (I stopped taking them yesterday though.) What I do find interesting though, is that it appears there are better tests that can be done in a laboratory. Those tests, unlike the cheap ones that we can buy in pharmacies here, will never give false positives. This makes me wonder why it is that the SANCA tests here are recognized by the courts, when they use the same cheap, unreliable tests that we can buy ourselves. I put it down to ignorance.

Posted in Recovery | Tagged ,

A belated thank-you, and some fun with eternal damnation

Three topics today – all related to atheism.

I’ve written before about my journey into atheism (too lazy to link to those posts now, but they are all tagged with atheism, so they should be easy to find), but there was one key moment I left out.

Wind back the clock to my high school days… I think I did mention that at fourteen years old, I was confirmed as a Roman Catholic, which oddly coincided with my own growing doubt. But I still believed. One day, when I was sixteen years old, I had a conversation with a girl named Meri. She was different to the rest of us, having grown up in a different culture in Finland (or was it Sweden? I don’t remember). She was an atheist. She scoffed at religious belief, and mocked it, much as I do now. She argued with me against religion, and I don’t know why – maybe it was her argument combined with my own growing doubt – I don’t know, and even though everybody else laughed at her and what she believed, I took her very seriously. By the end of that short conversation, my beliefs had changed radically. I continued to think about what she said, and in less than a day, I’d gone from somebody who could not comprehend disbelieving in God, to somebody who could not comprehend believing in God.

I still pretended for a few years, still went to Mass, even read my bible – something I’d never done as a believer, oddly enough. But when your eyes have been opened, when you have removed your selective belief blinkers, the bible is an awful book to read. You see all the stuff that your indoctrination has taught you to ignore as you rationalise it away. You see that it is a lot of nonsense.

Thus I’d like to thank Meri, somewhat belatedly, for opening up my eyes. It took me more than twenty years after that to admit publically to being an atheist, but that little talk we had in 1988 was the defining moment for me, the moment when my faith disappeared.

This is the reason I write about atheism occasionally. I know that we are “belief engines” and form a world-view when we are very young, and most of us can never change our world-view after that. But I did. I don’t know why, but if I could change my beliefs, then others can too, which makes it worth writing about.

My second topic is atheism in recovery. (Though I don’t have much to say on it today.) It is difficult, more difficult than I generally indicate. The problem is, belief in God, or at least a higher power, is an integral part of the twelve steps. It’s all very well that others in recovery always say that you don’t have to have a belief in God; because they say so while they do believe. They have often found faith in God, and while that may be an excellent crutch for them, it will never work for me. So whenever anybody says it, I find it insulting. They don’t even realize how condescending they are, or that they assume I will find God. It’s never going to happen. The irony is that if anybody deserves condescension, it’s those who would believe in such delusional nonsense. But such would not achieve anything useful.

Lastly, I’d like to make a point about eternal damnation, which is likely something you don’t think about if you have your selective belief blinkers on. If you believe, you’re likely to simply ignore that your religion teaches that you might not be saved. You just conveniently forget to think about that part. If you’re not a good Christian, or if you are a member of any other religion, or even if you were born somewhere such that you never heard of Jesus (even on another planet apparently, according to Ken Ham), then you are doomed to suffer forever.

Forever. Do you even know how long that is; do you comprehend it in years? I don’t. We typically live less than one hundred years. Yet we are taught that we will be damned not for one hundred years, not even for hundreds of years, or thousands, or hundreds of thousands, or millions, or even hundreds of billions of years. No, we are damned for ever and fucking ever. That is beyond absurd. But it’s OK… just carry right on, not thinking about it. That’s what you do as a Christian, right?

Posted in My life, Recovery | Tagged ,

Let there be shite

I’m sorry – I really just can’t think of a good title this time. Last night I read a fascinating post by Don Prothero, where he summarized his talk, about the mind of the science denier, from The Amazing Meeting 2014. (Wish I’d been there.) This is a partial quote of two paragraphs:

We are not rational computers, but “belief engines”, who form a “world view” or “core belief” early in our childhoods, and then fit everything we see or hear or read to conform to our pre-existing beliefs, or deny or ignore it if we can’t.

These habits of the brain are known as “motivated reasoning.” They include cognitive dissonance (when we find a fact that clashes with our deeply held beliefs, we find some way to rationalize it away or deny it, rather than accept it and change our world view), tribalism (our core beliefs are largely inherited from our family, friends, community and local culture, so they are an artifact of these things, not rationally choosing what to believe), confirmation bias (our brains remember the hits and forget the misses, so we can hear important facts that contradict our core beliefs and ignore them), cherry picking (where we pick a tiny fact or quotation out of context that seems to support our beliefs, and ignore the rest that doesn’t), and other kinds of motivated reasoning. From this, it’s clear that in most cases, bringing facts and evidence to the attention of a believer does no good whatsoever, since they cannot allow it to change what they want to believe.

That, in my opinion, is a great explanation of why indoctrination works. If our world-views are formed when we are really young, and then more or less cast in stone from that point, and we are then reinterpret everything in terms of that world-view, it is surely an accurate description of the way indoctrination of the very young into religious beliefs essentially brainwashes them into being unable to see how absurd those beliefs are. I know many people who simply refuse to see reason. No matter what I or anybody else says, they perceive everything in terms of their belief, to the point of reading something entirely different into my words, than what is really stated.

This also made me think a little of Ken Ham’s strange beliefs about aliens that Steve Novella wrote of recently. What it comes down to, is Ham believes that only we are saved (as long as we accept Jesus), but the rest of the universe can therefore not be saved. That is, even if there are millions of other Earth-like planets containing life in the universe, only we can be saved. God doesn’t care about any of the other races.

Sounds absurd, doesn’t it?

Or maybe not as absurd as you might think. Maybe you have been indoctrinated into Christianity, and you perceive everything in terms of your indoctrination? A typical reaction of such a person to seeing how large the universe really is, is to say something like “Look at all these marvellous things God created. He is truly great.” Except you’re missing a bigger point, one that Ham, whose fundamentalist literal interpretations of the Bible has realized: The god of the Bible was not concerned with the universe. He created the world, and everything revolved around the world, which is the centre of everything in the bible. The heavens are up above. Hell is below. The stars exist only as guides, little lights up in the sky to point to impending events, such as the birth of Christ.

The truth is, you can only choose to believe in the bible as well as science if you employ selective belief; if you choose to perceive selective bits and pieces of reality in terms of your religious world-view, then ignore the rest. As a Christian, you are supposed to believe that all other people of all other religions are damned. Ham just takes it a little further, and applies this absurdity to the whole universe. (But if you are a believer, it should apply. And that should be one of the reasons for realizing that it can not be true.)

Posted in Non-addiction | Tagged , , ,

Apparently aliens can’t have salvation because Jesus didn’t save them – according to Ken Ham

If you haven’t already read Steven Novella’s recent post, Aliens are Sinners, please do so…

Although he doesn’t state it directly, it comes across loud and clear that believing in gods up in the sky is something our ancestors, who knew no better than thinking we are the centre of the universe, can be forgiven for – but for modern man to believe in such nonsense is absurd. Creationists views are the funniest, because they try to apply ancient beliefs about man being the centre of the universe to our modern scientific view. This is why I was so angry the other day, when a Facebook “friend” shared a joke about atheists which used a straw man to accuse atheists of the arrogance inherent in theistic belief.

Posted in Non-addiction | Tagged , ,

Blogging about blogging, and some of the content that ended up in my mind’s cutting room floor

The story I linked to yesterday, and some recent comments on one of my posts, has motivated me to write some of the stuff that I recently left out of recent posts, and also describe how I plan my posts.

The truth is, I often wonder about my writing competence. Do I have a gift for it, or am I just lucky to hit on topics that people would like to read about, in my random written ramblings? I don’t know how other people plan and then write their content, unless somebody tells me (which they haven’t) but I do know how I plan my own posts. Maybe this will seem familiar to other bloggers?

Firstly, I should mention that I do sometimes write off the top of my head, without any planning at all. But this is rare. Normally if I do that, the post will be emotionally motivated, so it’s a response to something I’ve seen or heard or read, and it’s written to convey my feeling, be it outrage, anger, pain, or some other emotion. Those posts will often contain more of my dry wit than usual, which is a risk. I can be funny, but being funny is difficult. It’s too easy to miss the mark when aiming for sarcasm, and hit the facetious, childish, insulting or stupid mark instead. Such a post, if it goes wrong, can drag down the quality of everything I write, making it all seem arrogant, pretentious and presumptuous.

Normally everything I write is carefully planned, and prewritten in my head. (And this is where I wonder… Do other bloggers do the same?) I’ll think of what I want to write the night before, or maybe while I’m driving, for example.

My “posts in my head” are then quite detailed. They always contain the introduction, almost word for word, and the conclusion, if there is one. Further, they contain most of the paragraphs that the final post will contain, at least down to the key concept of each paragraph. I also frequently plan other lines or witticisms that I know I will include, but may not know where in the final structure of the post they belong. I make no effort to commit any of it to memory. Fortunately it comes back to me when I write. Filling in the actual words comes effortlessly once I know what each key concept is. I liken it to writing a computer program… When solving a programming problem, I know and understand the problem I want to solve, and before I write a single line of code, I know what my solution will be. I don’t know what the various classes (the abstract objects definitions at design time) will be called, or what their methods, properties and events will be named. I don’t know exactly how I will code discreet little parts of the program, but that doesn’t matter. Those are implementation details and they just flow without much effort once I sit down to code. Writing a blog post is the same.

Of course what does happen is, sometimes when I sit down to write, a concept that seemed simple yesterday grows more complex and important today. Also, I don’t like my posts to be excessively long, and some paragraphs, with their concepts that may have changed a post’s tone completely, sometimes need to be omitted.

For example, yesterday’s post about the time I almost witnessed a suicide was to have another paragraph, describing a conversation when I arrived at work. The first person I told about it asked me why I didn’t try to save her. I felt guilty that I couldn’t save her, but ended up omitting this because I managed to convey that guilt more effectively without mentioning the conversation, in my second-last paragraph. It also included a nod to the conversation, in the form of an imagined prayer that she said to herself. (The conversation was with a very devout Christian.)

My recent post about atheism and morality had a great deal of my planned post omitted. My opinion on abortion has changed several times over the years, and although it is now similar to the way it started out, I didn’t think that needed to be written. (Irrelevant.) I once gave a friend money for an abortion. The thing is, I didn’t believe that she really wanted it for an abortion – she came from an impoverished background, while I, at that time, had money to waste. I thought she was scamming me for money, but gave it to her anyway, because I thought she needed it more than I did. Try as I might, I could not find a way of making that relevant to the rest of the post, so it had to be left out.

So fellow bloggers, how do you plan your posts? Similarly to mine, or completely otherwise?

Posted in Non-addiction, Writing | Tagged