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?

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Some geek humour

I love geek humour, and I love sarcasm when it’s done really well. OK, I guess not all my readers will appreciate this, but I find it hilarious. The other day, Raymond Chen wrote a funny anecdote about how one of his colleagues debugged a line-of-business application for a package delivery service. He included some brilliantly and deliberately cheesy metaphors to a set piece in a movie, when describing the chaos that ensued. It’s well-written and funny, as his writing often is. But for whatever reason, some people were not happy, and criticized it rather harshly. So now he rewrote the post, labelling all the embellishments and so on. The amount of sarcasm and the effort he put into the follow-up post is sheer genius.

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The time somebody committed suicide right beside me, and I turned and walked away

It was 1996, and I was 25 years old. (Actually it may have been a year or two before or after – I don’t remember – but it’s not important to the story.) I worked at a place called Plessey SA, now called Tellumat SA, and I used to take the train to work.

Here’s where it happened:

Suicide_Spot

As my workplace was situated almost equally between two train stations, I disembarked at the safer of the two, Retreat station (near the top of this map), then walked the rest of the way and crossed over the railway line just before getting to work. What doesn’t show on the map is that the track isn’t guarded – it’s just on some bushy badly maintained land, but on the other side of the road running parallel to the track on the right, it’s the middle of suburbia and there are houses all the way along there.

I always walked quickly, and was on my way to catching up with several slower walkers, but hadn’t quite reached them yet, when I reached the point where I needed to cross the railway track.

But to my dismay, a woman was making it difficult for me to pass, which was getting urgent as a train was approaching. There was only a narrow pathway through the bush where I needed to cross, but the woman, who looked like one that we called a “bag lady” in our childhood, was wondering around, slowly and deliberately, and appeared to be intoxicated, immediately in front of me, blocking my way.

Eventually I got a gap to pass, and as I did so, she laid down on the track right beside me. She lay on her stomach, with her head on the Tellumat side, and her legs sticking out on the other side. The train was approaching fast by this point, and only then did I realize what she was doing.

As I passed, she looked up at me, and we made eye-contact briefly. And the look in those eyes was so sad… It was a look of desperation, confusion and resignation all at once. I tried to think of saving her, but the train was less than twenty meters away and approaching fast. So fast, it was irresponsible of me to cross the line so close to it. I thought about trying to pull her to safety, but estimated that I had less than two seconds to do so. Had I tried, I might not have succeeded. Maybe she would have pulled me down, and I was afraid. My own survival instinct kicked in, and so I did the only thing I could think of doing: I turned. I walked on as fast as I could. I did not look back.

I was less than ten meters away when I heard the awful sound, a sound that is hard to describe. It was like something between a gunshot and a thunderclap, but brought with it the terrible truth of what it did to that lady’s body. One moment she was alive, and the next, she was not. I don’t know if it was only her mid-section that was minced and dragged for several meters, whether her arms and head were left mostly intact on the one side – her legs mostly on the other, if those parts were spun around and dragged with the rest, or if they shot out in either direction, as the train cut her to pieces. I didn’t want to know.

But everybody walking in front of me, who I had almost caught up with, who had not seen the old woman lie down in the path of the train, all of them – and there were several – turned back to go and gawk. Like gawkers around an accident scene, they all went to have a look. I tried to tell them not to, but I had no words.

I wouldn’t say that this has haunted me, but it is something that I think of occasionally. What did she think of in those last moments? Was it all about bringing herself to do it, or was there a moment of hope when our eyes met? Sometimes I wonder if she said a little prayer, something like “Please God, give me a sign. Show me that somebody, anybody still cares and then I won’t do it.” And yet I did care for this desperate stranger. If only I had realized what she was doing a few seconds sooner, maybe I could have tried to stop her. But I realized too late, and the risk of trying to save her was too great. She was already on the track, and the train was right there, looming in front of us, bearing down on both of us as I crossed the line, and hesitated when our eyes met.

It’s weird that years later I became depressed. I even threatened suicide once or twice, but the truth is that was just a cry for help. I never even thought it through; never thought about how to do it. I can not imagine a pleasant way to kill yourself, but neither can I imagine a worse or more unpleasant way of ending your life than by laying down in the path of an oncoming train. (Maybe it’s different if there’s nobody left who cares, and you don’t care about your corpse having any dignity in a coffin.) But if you must do it, please don’t take your last moments to look into the eyes of some random slob who will forever after wonder if he could have saved you.

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Apologies to the random guy I dissed on Facebook

I’m not having the best day. Sometimes it seems we spend too much time bickering… Jerome, take the garbage out. Jerome do this. Jerome do that. What’s the time? (Hello, you have a watch and two mobile phones. You figure it out.)

So when I logged on to Facebook earlier, to find a stupid share that disrespected atheists, with a caricature of Richard Dawkins and a message that atheists are “the most illogical people in the universe” because apparently we are so selfish we think the universe is about us, I could not help but point out that the straw man purported by the line was the exact opposite to atheism. It applies to theists, who think that we are so special, the one and only creator somehow sent his son here as one of us. I then further pointed out how illogical religion is… “Ja right… virgins give birth every day”… before thanking him for reminding me to unfriend him.

Nothing I said was out of line, but it was unnecessary. The person who posted the stupid joke was a nice guy, someone I met in rehab when I started there late 2009. I haven’t seen him since then and so he was just another name in my Facebook friends. Not anymore, and he obviously doesn’t consider it any loss.

Funny how easy it is to take out your anger on people on the internet.

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Am I the only one getting tired of all these insults to intelligence shared on Facebook?

Lately I’m seeing a lot of these shared:

1391831_540967022653854_321407078_n

For fuck’s sake… It’s a trick. They always follow the same pattern:

  1. It’s an absolutely trivial series that a child can solve. (In this case, as the number on the left is incremented by one, the number on the right increments by eleven.)
  2. Then they leave out one.

Duh – the answer is 68, right? Wrong, obviously. If the bottom number on the left were 116, which they left out to trick you, the answer would be 68. But since they omitted 116 and went straight to 117, the answer can only be 79.

The completely made up statistic that only 20% of people will get this right on the first attempt is obviously completely made up, but I guess that many will get this wrong because we are all really good at seeing simple progressions, but might solve it too quickly without noticing that they left out the next number in the logical sequence. I’m willing to bet that they never do this sort of thing in an aptitude test because it is a dirty trick, designed to use your aptitude (that allows you to solve puzzles quickly) against you.

It’s counter-intuitive. If you have a higher IQ, you’ll probably recognize that this is a simple puzzle, and then solve it too quickly, getting it wrong. So if you got it wrong, don’t worry – it means you are too clever for these simple tricks. (I got it right. Therefore I am stupid. Drat.)

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Atheism and Morality

Due to my time constraints for blog-writing, and my tendency to hate sitting on a post for more than a few minutes, I can probably barely scratch the surface of this contentious topic. But I’ll try to scratch it enough to reveal some value.

Last night I was thinking of the moral dilemma that is abortion, and how little my views on it have changed since I began calling myself an atheist. I’ll get on to that in due course, but to put it in context, this can not be addressed without considering the broader subject of morality in atheism, in general. The reality is, my morals have hardly changed since I let go of my belief in God. Well, they have changed a little, but for the better. This is in stark contrast to the views I often encounter according to the perception of the religious, who seem to think that atheists lack morality.

The truth is, religion by its very nature is elitist. For example:

I am the way, the truth and the light. No one can come to the father but through me.

Ignore any errors there, as that was from memory. Also ignore the fact that I doubt that, if an historical Jesus existed, he even said that. The message in all Abrahamic religions is clear. Only we get to have eternal life. Everyone else is doomed. Thus by its very nature, religions marginalize others, and believers see others, who believe in other religions, as inferior. Most religious people don’t realize it, because they have their selective belief blinkers on.

In fact, most racists find ways to justify their racially exclusive beliefs using religion. That’s just one example. Colavito has identified many in fringe history and conspiracy theory culture. (I suggest reading him… Unlike myself, he is an actual writer.) As someone who opposes the belief in any god, as well as the moral superiority of a religion – as an atheist – I believe that we are all equal. That is, we humans are all the same and have the same rights. It doesn’t matter if we are male or female. It doesn’t matter what colour our skin is, and it doesn’t matter what our sexual persuasion is.

Some atheists call themselves humanists or secular humanists. I don’t know enough about humanism to be able to call myself one. I don’t know if it is a worthy label, or if it is a euphemism, a way of bowing down to those who would see atheism as a poor moralistic choice. All I know is, I can’t call myself “secular”, as I feel it might give the wrong impression of atheism being a religion. Atheism is not a religion at all.

Getting back to my motivation for writing this: abortion. The first time I really thought about it was in my school days. For whatever reason, a girl in my standard 8 biology class brought up the subject often. She was overly emotional about it, and I guess I know what that really means. Her argument in favour of abortion went something like: “When I was conceived, I was just a bunch of cells. Therefore I was not a living person and abortion is not morally wrong.” Though I was not yet out of my shyness and did not yet express my beliefs to anyone, and if I did, I probably would have screwed it up, as I did not have the ability to express myself terribly well, my response to her at the time would have been “What more are you now? You’re not special, you’re just a bigger bunch of cells. So if I kill you now, it’s also OK.”

The gist of my argument has not changed since then. The sperm being formed and recycled every 48 hours in my testicles do not constitute life. I think Monty Python did a great job satirising that idea in their song Every Sperm is Sacred. But the moment a sperm cell is combined with an ovary, in my mind that is a human life, albeit one in a very early stage of development. And destroying that life, is murder, no matter how you try to spin it.

Sadly that was all the time I have for this topic. I hope I have done it justice.

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Should Be Higher

I just saw this on YouTube… Wow, Dave’s voice is still amazing live. I also saw in an interview from around the time Delta Machine was released, that Dave Gahan was over 15 years clean at that time. Dave, you are an inspiration…

 

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Saying your bedtime prayers (is just one method of religious indoctrination)

I visited Josh last night, and as usual I stayed until he went to bed, then said goodnight and left the room while Abby got him to say his bedtime prayer. (In yesterday’s post on my personal life difficulties, I forgot to mention this one: Having religious delusion imposed on my child when I would not want it. This is a topic that theists don’t understand – they just brush it off because they can not comprehend the harm in religious indoctrination, since they are already brainwashed, but this is a topic that every atheist takes very seriously.)

This reminded me of a search term that brought somebody here recently: Methods of religious indoctrination. When I first saw it, I thought… Whaaaat? You want to start a cult? Then I realized that it probably resulted from a search engine because I have written about this topic enough times by now, and the person searching was probably someone like me, someone who only relatively recently discovered that religious indoctrination exists.

It occurred to me last night that Josh probably knows all about the Virgin Mary, as did I at six years old. It’s a clever trick of indoctrination: Teach a child something that they can not possibly understand, and drum it into them when they are young, as well as teaching them not to question it. At six year’s old, I knew all about the Virgin Mary, but I didn’t know what a virgin is, and I didn’t know what sex is. Instead of being explained the truth, I was bamboozled with nativity plays and all sorts of childish over-simplifications of the story.

And there’s another method of indoctrination right there… nativity plays, children’s bible’s, Psalty Songs for little praisers… By the time the children reach adulthood, they are brainwashed into accepting absolute nonsense without question. Try teaching an adult who never heard of Jesus that 2000 years ago, a virgin gave birth to a demigod. The holy spirit came upon her… (And inside her?) They will think you are out of your mind. But an adult who has been brainwashed with nonsense since their childhood, and bamboozled with all indoctrination’s tricks at stopping you from actually thinking about it critically will just go along with the ride, and continue to accept the nonsense they have been taught all along. In fact, rather than think about it critically, they’ll just go along with being bamboozled some more, through tasks like bible study, or pursue their personal relationship with the Lord.

Come to think of it, I was never good at being a happy clapper. I said my prayers as a child, but not out loud. I figured that if God knew how many grains of sand there are on the beach, and how many hairs on my head, and how many cuckoo clocks failed to chime every hour, he could hear my thoughts anyway. It only occurred to me much later, if I were to create a universe, why would I give a damn how many fucking grains of sand were on any random planet, or why would I care when some little snot-nosed brat cried to me that her big brother told her she had a nose like a doughnut?

By the time I reached adulthood, I’d already decided that anybody talking about their personal relationship with Jesus had serious mental issues, and anybody who spoke of walking with the Lord was not the sort of person I cared for. Atheism was the only way for me, the only path away from this madness. It wasn’t an easy one, because all those methods of indoctrination introduce excessive amounts of guilt when you try to let go of them. You can’t just discard years of brainwashing instantly; it’s a difficult process that takes some of us longer than others, but it is so worthwhile. I only hope it’s not too late for me to repair the damage that has been done to Josh, in teaching him all this shit.

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On my life’s difficulties

We all have our difficulties in life, and we all have to learn how best to deal with them. That’s just part of life, and I think that how you deal with your difficulties depends on your personal maturity and the way you perceive your difficulties, as well as your understanding of why they are there. I also think that dealing with them maturely results in a better quality of life, and happiness. I’ve been avoiding writing about my personal difficulties for a while, but maybe it is time to share some of them…

Yesterday, while I was at work, the social worker visited our home. I hope she was happy with what she found, and I hope that this means our reunification with Josh is finally on the way to being a reality.

Having him staying with someone else, Abby, my brother’s ex-wife, is sometimes a difficult pill to swallow. Sometimes it seems that she thinks he will always be with her, and doesn’t want to make any effort for his reunification with us to be easier. Recently she held a joint party for Aishah and her 11-year old at her parents’ house. It was a nice gesture, but in a way I thought it might have been a mistake. While I was in earshot, she was discussing the schooling of the children with her friends. They were arguing over which schools are the best, and Josh came up. Even though I was in earshot, she spoke as if he would always be with her, but that isn’t the first time she has been so carelessly insensitive.

She also refers to his cousins as his brother and sisters, and makes no effort to encourage him to understand the truth, as well as prepare him to live with us again. A few weeks ago, I got scolded by her for telling Josh “not to call Chris Daddy”… which is really odd, because nobody told him that. Megan told him not to call Abby Mommy, but only in the context that he often calls Megan “you”, although he calls me “Daddy”. Although it’s convenient visiting Josh nearby at Abby’s place, in a way I preferred visiting him at Chris. Chris would never say one thing and mean something else… like me, he always says exactly what he really feels, and although sometimes he can be a jerk (also like me), he can be trusted.

We also had to hear that Josh wet the bed because we had upset him with what we said (which included my telling him that his cousins are his cousins – not his brother and sisters). But I look at it differently… he always asks when he can come live with us, which we cannot answer directly. That combined with her not being on the same page as us, and not doing enough to prepare him for coming back to us, is very upsetting indeed. The situation is upsetting, but by contradicting his parents, even though he wants to return to us but has no say, is in my opinion what truly upsets him.

However, I do not want to contradict Abby, because having the adults bickering or telling him different stories will ultimately not be in Josh’s best interest. So I do my best not to rock the boat, and make sure I am on the right path to having him back with us. But it is extremely difficult. I constantly have to hold back my anger, telling myself that it is not justified and must not be expressed, and that doing so would only cause harm.

Also, in a way I can see where she is really coming from, although she will probably never admit it. She has become attached to Josh. I know all about attachment. I have become very attached to Aishah. She’s not my biological daughter, but as far as I am concerned, she is my daughter, and I love her as much as I would my own. I don’t ever want to lose her, and this is something I need to talk to Megan about. At some point, I want to adopt her, so that if anything happens to Megan, I don’t lose Aishah. I believe that will be the best for Aishah, but for the time being, I’m not dealing with this difficulty yet…

To end this on a more positive note, Aishah has picked up an endearing new behaviour. She’s become accustomed to our morning ritual, and she knows that the last thing I do every morning, before taking her to crèche, is put on my jacket. So if I put on my jacket any other time, she becomes highly agitated and upset, thinking that I am going somewhere but not taking her with me. (I have no choice but to pick her up and comfort her, or else she won’t shut up.)

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Yet another strange and crazy dream

I’m not one of those people who believe that there is any meaning in dreams, but sometimes I wonder where they come from. I mean, this one has nothing to do with anything on my conscious mind. Also, in my dream-world it is customary for me to forget that people in my life have died, so when I dream of them, I don’t question them on why they are there, or what it’s like after death. (Are the roads paved with gold? Are there sweet old ladies handing out tea and chocolate cake on every corner?)

So, the dream started with me mostly in the role of little red riding-hood, without the wolf. I was walking through the woods, to visit Grandma (pronounced without the D, more like grammar). I found myself at a park bench, on the phone with my Aunt Mercia, who informed me that Grandma had died. I became highly upset and cried quite a bit, and insisted on knowing when exactly this had happened. (For whatever reason, I forgot that Grandma died around 1994, and Aunt Mercia more recently.)

My aunt wasn’t very forthcoming with any information to my emotional outburst of questions, and the more she spoke, the more confused I became. Eventually I resigned myself to wait for her at the park bench, which in the meantime had become a bus stop.

From there, I departed on my bicycle, on a winding mountain road, off to meet my parents. It was a difficult road to cycle, and my cycling skill had apparently dwindled in the years since I last rode a bike, evidenced by the aged people and children who cycled past me constantly.

At last I came to a church, where I parked my car. (It’s a dream; the sequences of events don’t make a lot of sense.) There I met my parents. Apparently this church held the weekly ANC meeting that grandma always attended. (My father died in 2000. Grandma never supported the ANC.) We were all very sad, but also commented on the guest speaker and his wife, who were Afrikaans and white. We joked about them being token whites. Never mind that we are also white, and the meeting looked more like a regular Catholic Mass. I also had some strange introduced memories. Apparently in the dream, I always remembered the Creed having a verse about Grandma and us collecting her Sunday Missal. (Of course Grandma was from my mother’s side, and wasn’t even Catholic.)

Our attendance was cut rather suddenly, as dad got hungry, and in the middle of proceedings wandered off to the back of the church where they had free snacks. I became embarrassed when a woman approached us, and explained to her that my grandmother had died on this day, and we were attending her weekly ANC meeting. The woman, who was blonde with an old beehive hairstyle, proceeded to ask me a strange question, something to do with whether my brother knew where I was and would be able to fetch me. I don’t know exactly what she asked because I’d decided that she was stupid, and hence didn’t listen to the second half of the question. Of course I answered her with “Yes”, because the best way to get idiots to go away is always to agree with them. (It really is.)

I walked outside, and abandoned my car after starting to walk in the wrong direction. Then I found myself at a house I don’t know, which I entered using my house keys. (Perfectly normal in the dream.) I was supposed to be fetching something there; but I don’t recall now what it was. I tired to phone my mother, but the UI on my phone was something I’ve never seen before. It featured an endless scroll and looked more like Facebook, with nothing other then spam. Suddenly Christmas rolled around, and I received many Christmas messages. I also got two phone calls from my girlfriend; not Megan, but another girl called Kegan that I only dated for about two months several years ago. I ended both her calls mid-sentence because her voice was annoying. (It really is.)

Then my mother showed up, as I walked away. I tried to call her, but had no voice. She was fuming with anger; then saw me anyway, and lambasted me for not calling her, and not answering any of her calls, even though I had tried to call, and hadn’t received any calls from her. At this point I knew that my father was dead, but it didn’t occur to me as unusual that he was in the ANC meeting/church earlier. And so I woke up, wondering what the hell that was all about.

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Flu vaccinations… What’s the use?

Oh dear… The internet connection at work is broken, and here I am using my mobile connection, because I had already decided to write this. I’ll try to keep it brief… (It’s more or less the only time I get to blog at work; I’m the first to get here and I’m too busy to blog later.)

First of all, let’s get my context for questioning flu vaccines quite clear… I do believe in vaccinations, and I know they have saved countless lives and eradicated at least one disease: smallpox. What I’m questioning is flu vaccinations. Just how useful are they really?

Earlier this year, we took Aishah for her one year vaccinations. While we were there, Megan got her flu shot. I made a big joke of it at the time, boasting that I have never had a flu shot, and I don’t believe in them. It seemed the joke was on me last week, when I got a bad case of the flu. (My main reason for questioning flu shots is, I hardly ever get sick. If I get flu once every 5 years, that’s a lot.)

But now, Megan has the same flu. So now she had to take a day’s sick leave, which she didn’t want to do as she is nervous about losing her job. There’s a doctor almost right across the road from us – I told her to go there. But anyway, I do wonder what the use is of flu shots if you can still get a flu anyway?

I’m still not 100% well. The worst of it is over, but I am still phlegmy and unsure if I am still infectious enough to pass it on – hence I did not visit Josh yesterday. The interesting thing is, the doctor across the road, Dr Dave Kaplan happens to be a director of a rehab nearby, and when I asked him for advice regarding cold medications and false positive results for drug tests, he gave me some advice that I had not anticipated: Firstly, he’s not sure if modern urine tests will detect amphetamine in the case of cold medications, but just in case, he advised me not to go go anywhere near being tested if I thought it might. I didn’t visit Josh yesterday, because I was uncertain if I would still be able to infect him, but I did test myself for curiosity sake, and tested clear. (After stopping the prescribed Advil CS on Friday.) But this advice was not what I expected to hear. However, I will see Josh this week, probably by myself if Megan is still ill.

Update: In case this is not perfectly clear… Dr Kaplan’s attitude to testing is this: “As director of a rehab, if someone comes in and tests positive for any reason, I will think” [that they are using]. Not what I had expected. But also, I have been tested on the same day as taking Flutex before, and the results were negative, so maybe all this possible positive results thing is just me being paranoid. It is a big deal though… Nobody wants to get a positive test result when they aren’t using, because it introduces all kinds of nonsense… i.e. unnecessary mistrust.

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Turning off those stupid Windows Live Calendar notifications

I’ve got to admit, for a computer programmer, it is pretty dumb that I didn’t know this, but I see I was not alone…

What I’m talking about is those annoying birthday reminders that have been driving me nuts for the last two years, since I bought my first Windows phone. I didn’t even know where they came from… But recently Raymond Chen wrote a great post on how to switch those notifications off.

I’ll repeat just the relevant details here, as they apply to me:

  1. Log in to calendar.live.com
  2. Click the gear icon on the top right, and go to Options.
     CalendarOptions
  3. Choose your birthday calendar… Here’s what my options page looks like:CalendarOptions1
  4. Then turn off the notifications like so: (It’s on by default)CalendarOptions2
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Homesick

For no particular reason, this song was on my mind when I woke up this morning. I hadn’t listened to it for many years, but it was my favourite of the songs on The Cure’s Disintegration album. Those words, as well as the tune, have played back in my mind so many times over the years, yet the song is just as fresh, as well as haunting, every time I hear it.

I can’t find the performance of it I used to own on VHS, and I can’t remember what that concert was called, so for once my memory has failed me. If anyone can remember it, please let me know… It’s one that came out around 1989 or 1990, where Robert sings the chorus at the end a little higher. I think it was during their tour for Disintegration but I’m not sure. Here’s one I did find though. The Cure are always great live…

 

Update: OK, this is insane… After watching this video again, I decided the quality is simply too good for me not to download the rest of this performance. At 7.05GB though, it’s half my data. (Still, last month my data expired and wasted 5GB.) I found the torrent here.

Posted in Non-addiction | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Oh My…

Via a Facebook share by George Takei… The image below links to the article, with another 19 of these unintentional spelling errors by children. Some of them are very funny.

18_5

Posted in Funny | Leave a comment

I hate being sick, yet it sickens me even further that pharmacies sell drugs that will not make me well.

I’m back at work, after being off for two days. (I left around 10AM on Tuesday, and by the time I got home, had a bad fever.) I went to the doctor yesterday, and he put me off work for just the two days, so here I am again. Still sick, but less sick than I was. Does 875mg of amoxycillen sound like a lot?

Before I went to the doctor, I visited the local pharmacy (in the mall where I work). What amazes me about this place, is they have a whole isle dedicated to homeopathy… How can that be right? OK, I admit that I have no credentials in medicine or pharmacology, so anything I write on this topic will be no more than my subjective opinion… But guess what? That makes me as qualified as the homeopaths.

I often hear of people talking about “Big Pharma”, and sometimes they like to share their nuggets of wisdom on Facebook. But let’s get some things straight…

  • Real pharmacology involves actual research. That means scientists, teams of them, carving out careers in researching better medicine. That also means paying all those salaries for all those years of hard work, and patents on their discoveries, which are earned by years of hard work.
  • Homeopathy involves zero research. (Oh, there might be some pretence of research, but that really doesn’t count.) That means no real scientists, because no scientist is going to try to frame the evidence to suggest that sugar and water can through some magic, cure all diseases. So “Big Homeo” is all pure profit. No research means they can just focus on packing their sugar pills, bottling the water, and marketing it all to look as pretty as can be.

Seriously, it’s sinful that people can get away with selling us sugar and water. It’s maddening that I can go to a popular pharmacy, and they have very little real medicine that I can purchase without a prescription from a doctor. If only something could be done, like the warning you get on cigarette packs… Why not have a warning on all homeopathic medicines?…

Warning: This substance has been proven to have zero effect beyond placebo.
Posted in Conspiracy Theories, My life, Non-addiction | Tagged | 3 Comments

Beware: Cold medications often contain pseudoephedrine

The pharmacy didn’t have Flutex, so I bought this instead:

FamuCaps

But if you do regular drug tests and use something like this… beware: This will give a positive urine test result for amphetamine.

I’m not too worried though, since I will at least know why. But unlike the street drugs, this will only give a positive result for 48 hours. I don ‘t have a choice though… I must work, and I can’t do so with my nose running constantly.

Posted in Recovery | Tagged

Just a couple of quick rants

I have a nasty cold… runny nose, cough and headache, which presumably I caught from Aishah, who has a runny nose and oral thrush. I also have a major deadline today, and so I’m waiting for the closest pharmacy to open for me to get some Flutex. (Luckily I work in office towers that are inside a shopping mall.)

In the meantime, I Googled incel… Remember yesterday’s post? Some disturbing stuff there, including the fact that “CoAlpha” forum members (i.e. losers who can’t get laid and bitch about it online) would have made the guy a hero, if only he hadn’t killed so many men along with the women.

Here’s the thing, you stupid misogynistic fucks… (pardon the pun that doesn’t actually apply to you… haha), if you hate women, then how the fuck do you expect them to date you? Really losers, I think it’s time you found some man love with each other.

In other news, 24 youths ages between 14 and 16 have died here in South Africa this winter, in bush initiation schools. For those overseas who don’t know what that is, it’s a culture among native people here, where to enter manhood, the youths get circumcised in the bush. Not terribly hygienic, obviously, since so many of them die. The government is trying to address this problem, but people can be stubborn and cling to practices that are ingrained into their culture. It’s really sad that this should happen in this age, but it does. Frankly, I can’t understand how anyone can believe that they become a man by having any part of their penis cut off. I feel more manly, having my whole dick…

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

(There is no place for) misogyny (AKA incel) in modern society

This is something that came to my attention a couple of months ago, and I have been meaning to write my feelings about it since then.

I read this article about a 22-year-old gunman who killed six people in Santa Barbara earlier this year, and it genuinely shocked me. It wasn’t just what he did that is so wrong, it was also what he, and many others, believed about himself, and women, that was such a shock.

He wrote a “manifesto”, in which he complained bitterly about the various women who rejected him. He was part of an online community of men who felt that it was unfair that the women they desired didn’t just open their legs for them. (My paraphrasing.)

These men call themselves incel, involuntarily celibate. There’s a disturbing online underground of them, who indulge in blog-writing, joining forums, and going to PUI (pick-up-artists) websites, who promise to help them bed the girls of their dreams. The murders were the final act of that one disturbed individual when nothing worked.

Here’s a quote from that article I linked to – which itself quotes another “former incel blogger”:

This condition is the fault of women who do not exercise their right to choose partners appropriately. “I simply don’t think women understand the costs men deal with having to be the one to shoulder the burden of serial rejection,” writes a “former” incel, echoing the self-pitying mantra of Rodger’s manifesto.

By rejecting men, it is women who bring misogyny on themselves. The same blogger explains: “Misogyny is not innate. It’s bred. And each new generation of overly indulgent, ego driven, overly empowered, and narcissistic crop of feminism indoctrinated woman who relegates the bulk of men to the sidelines of incel-ville while riding the ponies breeds it like mosquitos after the rain.”

Involuntary celibacy is “dangerous and needs to be resolved,” the blogger concludes.

What?! There is some deep irony here… +1 for being able to string together a few words to form some fairly decent prose, but being able to write doesn’t make your argument correct. There is narcissism involved here, but not on the part of the women. Those who are narcissistic are the men who expect that they somehow deserve to be selected. They do not consider the women at all, but think that for whatever reason, they automatically deserve sex. This is wrong for too many reasons.

Ever heard of sexual selection? In most modern societies, apart from a few places where arranged marriages still take place, despite the fact that ours is still a male-dominated society, when it comes to choosing a life partner, it is the woman who gets to choose. If you are an obvious misogynist, no woman in their right mind will ever select you. And thinking it’s all about sex is really a symptom of the fact that you don’t perceive them as anything other than objects anyway… Sex is just one part of a healthy relationship. If you are ineligible to be selected, unless you pay for it or commit rape, you will surely die a virgin, and that is exactly what you deserve.

There is an implicit assumption going on in the minds of these men, that is revealed by their own label, incel. That is, there is no such thing as involuntarily celibate, because this assumes that you deserve sex from whomever you want, but it was never your choice to begin with. If women don’t select you, it doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with them; it means that there is something wrong with you.

Posted in Non-addiction | Tagged , | 3 Comments

How square are you?

Somebody shared this on Facebook the other day… So I reshared it. I enjoy simple puzzles almost as much as I hate stupid polls. What surprized me was that few people seemed to get the correct answer. How many squares do you see?

Actually I don’t know what the right answer is. I only know what my answer is, and I’ll write it below.

10153712_10151995344811314_819160146_n

My answer is below. Just see how many you get first…

 

 

My answer, trying to explain as I see them:

  1. Obviously, the whole thing is one big 4×4 match square. So we have 1.
  2. Add all the little squares made of only 4 matches (1×1). 9 of them. So we have 10.
  3. You can easily see how the large outer square breaks into 4 quarters (2×2). So now we have 14.
  4. Add the middle one, which is the same size as the quarters (2×2), made of 4 of the little squares that we counted in step 2. Now we have 15.
  5. Lastly, if you start in the bottom left-hand corner, there’s another one with a size of 3×3 matches. So there are definitely 16 squares.

Did I miss any? The most popular answer seems to be 15, but I can clearly make out 16. Are there any more?

Posted in Non-addiction | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Another oddball question

Looking at the blog stats again, I saw that a recent reader arrived here after searching for:

How to stay focused on meth?

Dear reader

I have good news and bad news:

  1. The good news is that you are not that far gone yet… You should still be able to stop using quite easily, because you haven’t been using for that long. You might not even be an addict – just a user – and it would really be a good idea for you to stop using right now before it gets much more difficult.
  2. The bad news, though I sadly suspect you won’t see it as so bad, is that if you continue to use, and do become an addict, you will find that you can stay focused on one thing, and only one thing. (Like a fucking zombie, you will continually do that one thing until the cows come home, then leave and come back again.)

Seriously, if you use meth for long enough, staying focused will not really be a big deal. Stopping yourself from a single-minded fascination with some random task, despite the fact that you really need to pee, or sleep, or eat, or just fucking stop, will be the problem.

It is quite conceivable that you could, for example, tweak on sex while suppressing your cum, until you penis is blistered and bruised, and you no longer need to suppress your cum because you are utterly dehydrated and no cum can come anyway.

It is quite conceivable that you could, for example, tweak on taking something apart and putting it back together again, over and over again for an entire day, until you don’t even remember why you are doing this, whether you are one person or a team of confused people doing it, or how to put said item together again.

Trust me when I say that it is better that you can not yet stay focused on meth, and best you keep it that way.

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

Robocop 2014 – Some movies shouldn’t be remade

Last night I hired the remake of Robocop at our local video-shop. I was disappointed. Not bitterly disappointed, but the movie did not live up to my expectations. They just kind of died a slow death. Besides its many other faults, the movie seemed somehow both too long and too short, at the same time. It took an hour to get into the movie, that is present the backstory and give us Robocop, ready for police duty. Then all the rest of the action was crammed into the last forty-or-so minutes.

Other issues I had with the movie:

  1. In the original, Murphy is gunned down ruthlessly by a gang of merciless thugs. The violence was necessary for the audience to feel sympathy for his character. You want him to exact justice (and revenge) on the perpetrators. The watered down “murder” of the new movie doesn’t leave you feeling anything other than surprize that it happened so quickly.
  2. Peter Weller did a great job in the original. You need an actor who can carry the movie, even when he’s in full body armour and all you can see is his eyes. He has that kind of charisma to be able to pull it off. The new actor, whose name I have already forgotten, did not pull it off. But he does play an emotionless zombie who speaks in monotone rather well. Monotone doesn’t make a movie.
  3. Robocop’s suit gets to be disassembled and reassembled, like Iron Man, only more goofy. (Actually even in Iron Man, it looked okay in the first movie, silly in the second movie, and downright absurd in the third.)
  4. The only actor who did stand out was Michael Keaton. But he always stands out. I found myself rooting for the bad guy.
  5. In the original movie, Murphy gets his memory wiped, but it is restored through flashbacks to his life throughout the movie. This not only evokes sympathy for him in the audience, it also heightens your feeling that what happened to him is unfair. You love him, and hate the bad guys. You cheer when he triumphs over them, and that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
  6. In the new movie, Murphy keeps his memories. When he is about to be revealed to the public, the entire police database is uploaded into his brain. This causes him to become emotionally distressed… So to fix him, the doctor decreases the dopamine in his brain, turning him into an obedient, emotionless zombie. Except, that isn’t what would actually happen. Dopamine doesn’t control your emotions – it makes you feel happy. Decreasing it would not take away his emotions, as anyone who has ever used drugs that hijack the dopamine system knows, it would only take his emotions to the other extreme. He would be deeply depressed, bawling his beady little robo-eyes out, and would probably throw himself off a building. Why do I harp on this point? Because it is pivotal to the plot. This is what we get instead of having his memory wiped, and it just doesn’t add up. (But it is yet another reason you don’t get to feel sympathy for his character.)
  7. In the new movie, they make some fuss about him “solving his own murder”. Hello, you can’t solve your own murder if you are still alive. (Actually come to think of it, you can never solve your own murder.)

There were other issues with this movie, although I did start to enjoy it in the last half hour. I won’t bother to name any more issues, but I think I’ve raised enough to say that this remake did not do justice to the original.

Posted in Non-addiction | Tagged ,

I wonder how difficult it is to live with OCD

I’ve been reading up on this, because my colleague suffers from OCD. I don’t think he has it too bad, but it does make him obsess about his work. He is the hardest worker I’ve ever met, and this sometimes annoys me because it means that I may be held to standards that are unusually high. (Actually I’m doing OK so far, because I am obsessive too anyway, but sometimes I do get annoyed. Overall though, it’s working out well because I am really giving these employers their money’s worth.)

The guy is also a very good developer, though I fear his obsession leads him to self-doubt, and maybe he spends too much time working at home, even though his wife recently gave birth to their third child. He’s also a heck of a good guy, once you get to know him. (I suspect not everybody thinks so, because his standards are very high, he has a way of being blunt, which may come across as rude, and he’s too quick to lose his temper. And then he obsesses over whether his outbursts went too far.)

I also wonder where that question about my happiness came from yesterday… I hope he is happy. He certainly has reason to be.

I’ve also been reading up on Scrupulosity, which a reader and fellow blogger is cursed with. It’s hard for me to fathom how difficult that must be… He is an atheist, with religious scrupulosity. How tough that must be, to feel that you are never good enough, never moral enough, to always doubt yourself and examine scriptures in the most minute detail, to be sure that your behaviour is the best that it can be, and then sometimes find conflicting scriptures that create standards impossible to adhere to, and be bound to those scriptures, even though you don’t even believe in God. That’s a tough one. I really feel for the guy, even though he is on the other side of the planet.

Posted in Recovery | Tagged | 2 Comments

I am a happy person

Yesterday, my colleague asked me a rather perplexing question:

Would you say that you are a happy person? The reason I ask is that you smile a lot.

I replied that “Yes, I am. But I wasn’t always this way”. Then last night I thought about it further. I am a happy person. I smile and laugh a lot. I think it’s important to be happy.

Maybe it doesn’t always come across in my writing? I write about whatever I am passionate about, which includes logic and reason, religion and theism/atheism, my recovery and progress in recovery (obviously), but I also write about whatever angers or frustrates me, and most, if not all, of the issues I have, especially in my relationships. But none of those things change the fact that I am happy.

Posted in My life, Recovery, Relationships | Tagged

My car is finally licensed!

After four years of dodging road-blocks, my car is finally legal… at a price of R2300. Still not 100% right though, because I still have the wrong license plates. Not my fault; when I bought the car in 2010, the Renault dealer guy gave me the wrong plates. So I shall see if I can sort that out on Saturday. But at least I’ll no longer get stressed every time I see a road-block. (I had to make a U-turn in front of one just the weekend before last.)

Posted in My life

Losing faith in humanity

Last night I decided to update my profile picture, in several places, since I used the same old one everywhere. I see I have a Google+ account, presumably created automatically some time back. I see also that it looks kind of like Facebook, with posts that got there automatically whenever I commented on YouTube videos. I don’t think I will ever explicitly log in there again…

Towards the end of last year, I commented on a stupid movie trailer I saw, some B-grade trash movie with the main characters who are “stoners”. (The idea of stoners – people who only smoke cannabis – being harmless dropouts is one that only exists in fiction.) I commented something to the effect that such movies are stupid, because they glorify drug-use. And it’s true. Whether inadvertently or not, all movies with protagonists who use drugs do nothing more than further proliferate fallacies and stereotypes about drug users. In doing so, they promote ignorance of the real dangers of drugs, which in fact are responsible directly or indirectly for almost all crime.

Of course that comment was a mistake, and served only to prompt some idiots to reply, as is their wont on YouTube.

  • One person called me some childish names and wrote some hateful nonsense. Such things, even if they result in a second or two of anger, are not worth replying to because they just prove me correct.
  • One person asked if I saw the movie, and claimed that it makes a statement about how bad drugs are. This is an argument from ignorance.

But why must people argue on YouTube, using foul language and childish insults like the first commenter? What does it achieve to hurl endless rude, but insubstantial comments at each other? Truly, whenever I read such comments, I lose a little more faith in humanity.

Why do so many love to hate so much? Comments always remind me of dramatic monologues… They betray the motivations, the emotions, the hatred and bigotry, racism and homophobia of the people making them, who are too stupid to realize how transparent they are. If YouTube (and other) comments are anything to go by, we have not evolved much at all from savages.

Closer to home, I tried talking to Megan about something that was on my mind… We can’t see Josh for a week, because Abby (who fosters him until we can get him back) is marking exam papers the whole week. I wanted to talk to Megan about how different I am now, to three years ago. Then, I might have taken this as an opportunity to use meth for a week, knowing that no drug test would catch me. (Never mind that using for only one week probably wouldn’t work, but that’s how we think in active addiction.) Now, this is not even an option. My only thoughts on it were introspective, but she won’t talk about it, or anything else from the past, at all.

I don’t see why everything should just be brushed under the rug (for her)… It’s important for me to understand… Why do I not want to use now, though I did then? I am still the same person. I need to understand the what and when and how and why, because it worries me. I think about it every day. I think about it every night, when I lay awake with insomnia for an hour or two before I can fall asleep. If it’s not that, it’s some programming problem at work that I haven’t yet solved. I can’t fucking stop thinking… maybe I think too much?

Posted in Recovery

Idiots should never troubleshoot anything

A few days ago, my Firefox browser at work started some annoying behaviour… It seemingly randomly gave me “The connection was reset” error messages. So I did the natural thing… instead of thinking about it, I Googled the error to see who else had the same error. There were many, but none of those people had the issue resolved.

One of the most amusing, for all the wrong reasons, is one I found here. His original question:

I just updated from FF21 to FF22. Immediately after doing so, I was unable to get into my Comcast email, the Google search page, Facebook, and even the Mozilla community. On some of them (such as Google and Facebook) I immediately got:

The connection was reset… Redacted

The extremely helpful tech support then went to a lot of trouble to help the poor bugger, before he eventually replied sarcastically with:

Thanks to all who have posted trying to help. I have neither the tech knowledge nor the time to fool around trying to correct something that should never have happened in the first place. I started using Firefox a couple years ago (or more) because I was tired of messing with IE. I was very pleased with the results until now. I have since migrated to Google Chrome, and am uninstalling Firefox. Thank you, and goodbye.

The only thing the tech support people did wrong was not ask him the obvious question, as I would have. (But that would have been rude.) When you installed the new browser, what else did you install?

Here’s the thing: When you get such an error, it is most likely not coming from the browser itself. It’s an error from some part of the operating system when a browser tries to load a page; assuming your operating system has a firewall. Or if there is anything else sitting between your browser and the world-wide-web, like maybe a third-party firewall packaged with a popular anti-virus program.

The fact that it affects one browser and not others is irrelevant. Maybe Chrome has some fallback mechanism it uses when a firewall causes its DNS lookup to fail; maybe the invocation of its fallback still slows down the page loading time, because in your snarky “wisdom” you only sorted out the symptom, not the cause.

In my case, I had installed BitDefender, and for whatever reason, it broke all HTTPS web pages in my version of Firefox, but only on my work machine. The problem disappeared if I disabled the buggy firewall, and was removed for good after I uninstalled BitDefender.

Note that I’m not blaming the anti-virus software vendor either… For whatever reason, on the configuration of my work machine, it caused problems. It is still running perfectly on my home machine, and both are running 64-bit Windows 8.1 Pro. I’m blaming the stupid person who doesn’t have a clue how to troubleshoot.

Posted in Non-addiction | Tagged ,

Meth addict lies (and other fallacies) revisited

The other day I wrote about the fallacy that all addicts are gifted people; then a thoughtful reader pointed out exactly which fallacy this is:

The Fallacy of Composition.

(That’s a lot of hyperlinks for such a little text – Sorry…) Interestingly I’d heard of this fallacy but hadn’t quite grasped it. It is an interesting one: In my own words, it’s the assumption that the whole is always the sum of all parts, and that the whole has identical properties to all parts. That is, just because you know of one or two (or maybe more. I know of many) addicts who happen to be gifted, you assume all addicts are gifted. Just because you know of addicts who lie, you assume all addicts lie, and then ask it in a Google search

This is something that has annoyed the hell out of me for ages, but I could never put my finger on why it got to me so much. Now I can. The question betrays an error in the mental cognition of the person who asks it… Most of us (I hope) know how wrong it would be to ask “Why do all [insert racial group] look the same?” or “Why are all politicians crooks?” or “Why do Jews rule the world?”

The answer to all those questions can only be:

  • They don’t.
  • But it’s interesting that you should perceive that they do.

The opposite fallacy would of course be the fallacy of division. This is when you start with a group, take some property that is true for the group, and then assume it applies to all parts.

Similar fallacies are the hasty generalization, which is when you assume something to be true for all members of a group based on too small a set of that group, and selection bias, which is when you deliberately exclude some data, i.e. you cherry-pick, to reach your foregone conclusion.

Another fallacy that irks me to no end, though it has nothing to do with the fallacies relevant to my main points here, is the appeal to ignorance. That is the entire backbone of the whole ancient aliens nonsense theories… We don’t know how ancient people erected monuments, pyramids etc. Therefore aliens. (Actually that’s the entire backbone for theism too, once you get past your own brainwashing indoctrination. We don’t know how the the seasons work, the sun rises, the moon the moon phases work, the universe was created… Therefore God. And as science does figure out these things – just shift the goalposts.)

I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to brush up your critical thinking, and not make such silly logical errors. Understanding bad arguments is key to having a better understanding of the world we live in.

Posted in Recovery | Tagged , , , , ,

A new and interesting take on Dracula

Dracula Untold, starring the super-cool Luke Evans. This is one Dracula movie I will watch.

 

And in case you missed it, the trailer features an interesting cover version of Tears For FearsEverybody Wants to Rule the World

Posted in Non-addiction | Tagged ,

On the fallacy of addicts generally being smart people

There are a couple of things I thought of writing about this morning. Unfortunately I don‘t have time for both, so I’ve decided to focus on the one that is relevant to addiction and recovery.

The other day, my colleague mentioned the impression that addicts are often highly intelligent people, that he had heard geniuses often become addicts. I believe this is a fallacy.

Sure, if you walk into an NA meeting almost anywhere, you will very likely be surprised to meet a number of highly intelligent people; people who talk deeply about a great variety of complex subjects; people whose IQs are obviously way above average. You won’t find that all the time, but you will find that it frequently is the case. Why?

I believe that the answer is not that mostly gifted people become addicts; instead, it is mostly the gifted addicts who do recover (but not always). Anybody can put themselves into the situation where they become an addict, but not everybody gets out. Most will live and die in active addiction. That’s just the way it is.

When I think back to my time in the worst of active addiction, not when I relapsed in Johannesburg, but when I lived in Cape Town; I had many “friends” who were also meth addicts. I was part of a community, a subculture of sorts, of meth-addicted people.

I would not rate most of those people as being smart. There were exceptions, of course. One who I think of every so often, is a lady by the name of Laska. She stands out as being different, because she is highly intelligent. Unfortunately, intelligence doesn’t stop you from also being incredibly stupid, and I remember her with sadness, because of her intelligence. She is a person who I can easily imagine in recovery. In my mind, I can see her as she would be if she cleaned up, and lived a normal life instead of the hell that she puts herself through.

Addiction is a terrible thing, but this idea that most addicts are gifted, super-intelligent people who went awry, is just wrong.

Posted in Addiction, Meth, Recovery | Tagged | 2 Comments

Josh climbs Daddy Mountain 25th June 2014

Notwithstanding my phone takes terrible photos at night, I don’t know when I got so damn fat…

WP_20140625_005

WP_20140625_006

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

A nice fake quote CSS “trick” for public WordPress blogs

I have some serious topics I’d like to write about, but they take effort, and I don’t have time for putting effort into blog-writing at the moment. But here’s one little thing that I can share; something that has annoyed me for some time…

I hate the default style for quoted text, at least on my blogs. Both of them (and I’m publishing this to both) use the same theme, which doesn’t give me access to the style sheet, and uses an ugly (but readable) font that is a little too large for my liking. I’ve learned to live with that, but what I really can’t stand is the style that’s used for quotes.

The reasons I hate the default quote style is that the quoted text is ugly, and it takes up too much space. It removes the reader’s focus from my words to the quoted text, but I want the quote to supplement what I write, not grab all the attention.

To work around it, I use my own “fake quotes”. It’s hardly a CSS trick at all; it just uses inline CSS on paragraphs, which sets the font, the font size, the line height, pads the paragraphs left and right, and justifies the text. I used this technique in this post last night.

Here’s a dummy HTML page that demonstrates how it’s done. (Note the inline CSS on the paragraph.)

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml">
<head>
    <title>Fake Quote Example</title>
</head>
<body>
    <p style="font-size: 11px; font-family: 'Segoe UI'; padding-left: 16px; line-height: 16px; padding-right: 16px" align="justify">
        Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Aenean commodo ligula eget dolor. Aenean massa. Cum sociis natoque 
        penatibus et magnis dis parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus. Donec quam felis, ultricies nec, pellentesque eu, pretium
        quis, sem. Nulla consequat massa quis enim. Donec pede justo, fringilla vel, aliquet nec, vulputate eget, arcu. In enim justo, 
        rhoncus ut, imperdiet a, venenatis vitae, justo. Nullam dictum felis eu pede mollis pretium. Integer tincidunt. Cras dapibus. 
        Vivamus elementum semper nisi. Aenean vulputate eleifend tellus. Aenean leo ligula, porttitor eu, consequat vitae, eleifend ac, 
        enim. Aliquam lorem ante, dapibus in, viverra quis, feugiat a, tellus. Phasellus viverra nulla ut metus varius laoreet. Quisque 
        rutrum. Aenean imperdiet. Etiam ultricies nisi vel augue. Curabitur ullamcorper ultricies nisi. Nam eget dui. Etiam rhoncus. 
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And here’s how it looks on this blog:

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Posted in Non-addiction, Writing | Tagged , | 7 Comments

Fascinatingly obvious: Hypnotic regression doesn’t actually work

I found a link on Mike Heiser’s blog to this CIA paper on hypnotism. It is quite fascinating, and the section I will quote below makes it pretty clear that hypnotic age-regression doesn’t really work. The author of the linked blog states that so-called UFO abductees are indulging in “skilled deception”, which should be obvious, of course, since they always all about making a profit (but it’s too bad conspiracy theory believers will never understand this), but I think there’s more to it than that. Hypnotic regression can also allow you to believe in your own fantasy world, with the right encouragement. Think of people who are so willing to believe in past lives…

Here’s the whole Accuracy and Veracity section:

Accuracy and Veracity

Supposing, however, that an interrogee has been hypnotized and induced to divulge information: how correct is this information likely to be?

Accuracy in Recall. A great deal has been written, especially in the press, about the perfect memory and unfailing accuracy of recall people display in hypnosis. Statements have frequently been made about their ability to recall anything that has happened to them even while infants, and according to some even prior to birth.12 Hypnotic age-regression is a mechanism frequently used for this purpose. The subject is “taken back” to, say, the age of six. He begins to act, talk, and to some extent think in the manner of a six-year-old. He hallucinates the appropriate environment and gives details about people sitting next to him in school, his teacher’s name, the color of the walls, and so on. His actions are exceedingly convincing, and it has frequently been assumed that an actual regression in many psychologic and physiologic age components to the suggested year takes place.

There is little evidence for the genuineness of hypnotic age-regression, even though there have been a number of studies, mostly based on single cases. Young 31 demonstrated that performance on intelligence tests was not appropriate to the suggested age. Unhypnotized control subjects were more successful than subjects under deep hypnosis in simulating their age. Using the Rorschach test and drawings in a study of hypnotic age-regression in ten subjects, Orne 17 demonstrated that while some regressive changes appeared, non-regressive elements were also present, and changes toward regression showed no consistency from subject to subject. The drawings did not resemble the work of six-year-olds, being characterized by Karen Machover as “sophisticated oversimplification.” Drawings actually done at the age of six by one subject were available for comparison, and there was not even a superficial resemblance. Subjects often gave with great conviction the name of the wrong teacher, one they had had at a later age. Studies by True and Stephenson,23 and McCranie, Crasilneck and Teter 15 failed to find in electroencephalograms taken during hypnotic age-regression any change in the direction of a childhood EEG. Similarly they report no increased heart rate, as characteristic of infants, or other changes in electro-cardiograph tracings.

Hypnotic Veracity. Considerably less data is available on the veracity of information furnished in trance. I have been able to find in the professional literature only one author–Beigel 4,5–who deals with prevarication under hypnosis. He writes in a personal communication that people may lie, refuse to answer, or wake up when asked direct questions on sensitive matters. Our own clinical work has amply convinced us that hypnotized subjects are capable of lying when they have reason to do so.

It is therefore possible that information obtained from an interrogee by hypnosis would be either deliberate prevarication or an unintentional confusion of fantasy and reality. The correctness of any information so obtained would thus have to be established by independent criteria.

Posted in Conspiracy Theories, Non-addiction | Tagged ,

My thoughts on Insidious, The Second Chapter

The second movie, which doesn’t come across as a sequel, but more like the second part of two movies filmed together to form a single narrative, continued exactly where the first part left off. I was glad that I watched them together without a couple of years gap between them.

What really made me happy was that they did depart from the “Poltergeist plot” of the first movie. My main complaint regarding the first part was that it was just a different spin on the plot of Poltergeist. The spin was the plot device used – astral projection – to connect the fictional spirit realm with the physical one.

My other criticism was that I compared it to Anne Rice’s The Tale of the Body Thief. There’s a lot you can do with such a plot, and I thought the initial part of Insidious failed to deliver, leaving us instead with a politically (and religiously) correct demon. The second part, however, (literally) fleshed out a sub-theme, regarding the child’s father’s earlier experiences with a ghost that wanted to take over his body, to which he was once again exposed while helping his son (by astral travelling).

They did go in the direction that I thought such a plot should go, and did not disappoint. I won’t give any more away here, in case you have not seen the movie, but one thing that really impressed me was that they went the extra mile and explained the history of the evil ghost. This is unlike many movies lately, for example the horrible but popular The Apparition, for which you can sum up that movie’s entire plot with “The bogeyman is gonna get you”.

They made a couple of mistakes too, but I won’t criticize them for it (I will in the comments, but you don’t have to read them), because that would also spoil the movie for anyone who hasn’t seen it. Overall it was one of the best supernatural horror movies I’ve seen for a while.

Posted in Non-addiction | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Some photos from the weekend 21st to 22nd June 2014

No special occasion this past weekend – we mostly sat around at home.

The first few shots were of Aishah on Saturday. (So I’d get into trouble with Megan if she knew I posted them. I won’t be telling her.) She’s a little miserable here… she was tired but refused to lay down for a nap. I took her for a walk outside, and it worked quite well. It’s difficult for us not having Josh with us, but this little girl is special to me too. She’s impossible not to love.

The other is of Josh at a nearby park (with blurred Aishah in the background) on Sunday, as he was with us for lunch. (From 11:30AM until around 5PM. Those are his church clothes.) Megan had a go on that merry-go-round too, but silly me didn’t think of taking a photo.

 

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Posted in Parenting, Recovery, Relationships | Tagged ,

Astral delusion (AKA projection) as the plot mechanism in horror

Yesterday, I wanted to download a movie, and thought that I was scraping the bottom of the barrel, of highly rated horror movies that I hadn’t yet seen, by downloading Insidious and and its sequel. Actually, I rather enjoyed the first one, and must still watch the sequel.

I was pleasantly surprised that the acting and story of Insidious was above average, and I could enjoy the movie. It’s basically the same story as the old Poltergeist movie: Family moves into home; malevolent entity wants child for nefarious (or maybe insidious) reasons… paranormal/psychic woman with her helpers gets involved; child gets rescued from the other side, and something ambiguous happens to leave room for a sequel. But it was executed well enough, with enough tone and decent acting. An enjoyable, if not scary narrative.

The plot device used to explain the haunting was astral projection, or travelling as they call it in this movie. The traveller’s body is left exposed to being possessed by the dead who yearn to return to life, as well as a demon, which is done in politically correct style leaving the definition of demon to the imagination and religious persuasion of the audience. I look forward to watching the sequel tonight, since hopefully the story will now depart from being so much like Poltergeist.

Astral projection itself wasn’t done as well or explained as deeply as, for example, Anne Rice’s Tales of the Body Thief. But it was a clever spin on the Poltergeist story, done well enough that most viewers may not immediately notice the otherwise near identical plot.

But what of the plot device? Is astral projection real? I don’t think so. The way believers explain it, of course it does not involve any risk to the body being in any danger of being taken over by others, but since astral projection itself is fictional, the technicalities of whether the New Age believers think that the body becomes vulnerable, or not, are irrelevant.

Why do I call astral projection fictional? – you might ask… Well, if you have a look around there are loads of astral delusion self help examples online – even a Wiki (which I can’t link to today since I’m writing this offline and am too lazy to look up some suitable bullshit examples before publishing this). The point is, if you look deeply enough into this, and I have (I was on drugs, remember? Such things “open you mind” to all manner of nonsense.) you will find that believers in it find all kinds of ways of rationalizing away the fact that it isn’t real. They don’t interact with others in the so-called astral plain, and have corroborating stories afterwards. They go to places where people are, but don’t see the people there, because the people are not in the “astral plain” with them. If the traveller finds furniture or other articles in their home that aren’t supposed to be there, they can simply state that those articles are there because they left behind a strong astral signature from the past. (And if you prove to such a person that such item never existed, they may well turn around and say it is an item from the future.) People never have shared astral experiences. If it was real, they surely would.

What it comes down to is, astral projection is lucid dreaming, with people who want to believe imposing meaning on it that doesn’t belong there. But it is still useful for a movie plot, if the movie is done well enough for one to suspend one’s disbelief for a little while, and just enjoy the movie.

Posted in Non-addiction | Tagged , , , ,

A disturbing paper blames schizophrenia on demons

I can’t really add much to this excellent article on Doubtful News. The so-called “Journal of Religion and Health” has published a paper on schizophrenia, where they actually suggest that it really is caused by demons. It’s hidden behind a pay wall, and obviously this kind of nonsense is not worth paying for. Here’s the abstract:

Schizophrenia is typically a life-long condition characterized by acute symptom exacerbations and widely varying degrees of functional disability. Some of its symptoms, such as delusions and hallucinations, produce great subjective psychological pain. The most common delusion types are as follows: “My feelings and movements are controlled by others in a certain way” and “They put thoughts in my head that are not mine.” Hallucinatory experiences are generally voices talking to the patient or among themselves. Hallucinations are a cardinal positive symptom of schizophrenia which deserves careful study in the hope it will give information about the pathophysiology of the disorder. We thought that many so-called hallucinations in schizophrenia are really illusions related to a real environmental stimulus. One approach to this hallucination problem is to consider the possibility of a demonic world. Demons are unseen creatures that are believed to exist in all major religions and have the power to possess humans and control their body. Demonic possession can manifest with a range of bizarre behaviors which could be interpreted as a number of different psychotic disorders with delusions and hallucinations. The hallucination in schizophrenia may therefore be an illusion—a false interpretation of a real sensory image formed by demons. A local faith healer in our region helps the patients with schizophrenia. His method of treatment seems to be successful because his patients become symptom free after 3 months. Therefore, it would be useful for medical professions to work together with faith healers to define better treatment pathways for schizophrenia.

I really thought we had moved on from this kind of thinking, like two hundred years ago… Demonic possession is cool for a movie plot, albeit one that has been redone too many times, but the simple fact is, exorcism is a type of abuse of patients with many mental conditions, schizophrenia being but one of them, that are treatable. Having a paper in a respected journal claim that faith healing can work, without any other reference to the faith healer, is simply despicable.

There are many ignorant people out there, some of whom share their “inspirational” religious messages with me on Facebook. The messages and quotes are always nonsensical and filled with bad arguments and logical fallacies, yet so many people are unable to see through that. Even if the article was published to “promote discussion”, as defended by the publishers, surely they have some moral responsibility not to publish senseless garbage that gullible people will believe?

One of the commenters pasted some of the actual paper on the comments of the linked page. It’s worth a look if you find this interesting.

I take extra offense to this kind of tripe. As someone who knows how it feels to have voices in my head, although they were drug-induced pseudo-hallucinations unlike the permanent hallucinations of someone who is schizophrenic, they were similar enough for me to know how bad such things are. This kind of thinking can lead people to take their loved ones to exorcists and faith healers, and then torture them, possibly harming or even killing them. And likewise, drug addicts who need rehabilitation could go through the same ordeal, rather than getting the help they need. No good can possibly come of this.

Posted in Conspiracy Theories, Non-addiction | Tagged

One day my sense of humour will get me into trouble

Here we go again… I have a big mouth, and a tendency to speak and sometimes act without thinking. People have always told me it will get me into trouble, though it hasn’t happened yet. But it’s come close too many times.

Yesterday as we had a smoke break, my colleague, whose wife gave birth last week, asked me what I thought of the names Adrian and Markus… I immediately told him that Adrian sounds like the name of a fool, and Markus sounds like a mighty, yet cruel king; one who beheads all who oppose him. He seemed genuinely taken aback for a moment, until I followed up by asking him what his sons names are, at which point he realized that I had anticipated the motivation for his question, and was pulling his leg.

Why do I always do this? I ask myself every time, but that doesn’t stop me from doing it again. I think I’m improving, in that at least now I know how harmful it can be. In the past, my only real thoughts about my sarcasm were that it annoyed me when people didn’t get it. Of course the real problem with any dry and spontaneous wit is that because of its spontaneity, people often think that what is said is genuine. That is, they often think that it is sincere, that any opinions expressed this way are how I really feel.

It probably doesn’t help that I often tell them that my sarcasm is always serious – because they do not realize what that means. It’s serious in that I will pick a weakness that I perceive of the person, or maybe a behaviour or a belief, and mock them for it. But any apparent opinions that I may express in the process of being sarcastic are not genuine at all, so when I tell people that it is serious, they take it the wrong way.

When I think back to last year as I worked with a diverse team at Multichoice, a team that included both intelligent, competent people as well as some lazy incompetents, I said some pretty mean things. My best, and also my worst statement there, was when I told the testers that I could do their job, but only after having a frontal lobotomy.

I was also sometimes overly sarcastic to the one person there who I would have liked to have as a friend, a guy by the name of Suresh, so imagine my surprise when he called me last week and invited us out. Megan, Aishah and I joined him for some yummy Indian tea at his place, and then lunch last Sunday, at an Indian restaurant in Woodmead. He paid as well. (As a solution architect, he earns – I’m guessing – roughly double my salary, and since he still works for my old employers, he was paid on the 15th.)

So now I have one real friend (besides all the virtual friends whom I have never met, and old friends whom I now only see online but haven’t met for years, and friends of family, whom I don’t count)… I never socialize, so this is a major improvement for me. Of course I did find a way of fucking it up a little… As we sat there, a devout Muslim woman approached to sit at the table next to us; she was dressed in the style we, in our school days, used to call a ninja. (Clearly we weren’t the only ones to call them this.) I then said out loud, “I have a cruel question in my mind. How do you…” and then made some crude eating gestures, as though I was eating with a veil in front of my mouth. But I’d failed to notice that she could see my reflection in the glass of the restaurant entrance, and she was not amused. Of course I apologized, even though I thought it was a reasonable question, and had not intended her to see me. I think Suresh was embarrassed.

So, no real ham done, and I really didn’t mean to further insult a woman who is already part of a religion that demeans and insults her as a human being anyway. In truth, I empathise with such people, even though they would likely be insulted by that too. But still, it would be nice if I learned to think before speaking.

Posted in My life | Tagged ,

I see somebody asked a more sensible question

Somebody found their way here after asking:

Does amphetamine make one read slowly?

Yes, amphetamines make you do everything slowly. Speed is a misnomer.

It seems to give you energy at first, but then you get stuck, obsessed and psychologically fascinated with doing simple, repetitive tasks. That’s what tweaking is. You feel alert and awake, but you become noticeably slow to anyone looking at you from the outside. This gets progressively worse because its effects are cumulative when combined with the effects of sleep deprivation that are inevitable with its use.

This is a very good question to ask because it shows that you have noticed what meth really does. If you are asking this question based on your own self-observation, this is an excellent sign because you know you have a problem, which is the first step towards getting the help that you need.

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

A very stupid question

This is not the type of advice I like to give, but I see that somebody got here after asking a truly idiotic question:

How should tik look when its in the lolly and ready to smoke?

I don’t encourage anyone to use drugs, especially when they have never yet successfully used the drugs they wish to use, but for you, dear imbecile, I will make an exception.

The point here is, if you are so stupid that you can’t even figure out how to use the drug in the first place, and you actually manage to use it and become an addict, you probably have no hope whatsoever of being able to recover. This is because recovering addicts are normally intelligent people, while you most certainly are not.

Since you asked in SA slang, I assume you are in Cape Town and I will thusly write this in a lingo that you will understand…

Before you slat the tik into the lolly, dit lyk soos course sout. Slat a lekker amount into it, then as you put the lolly to your lips, gently like a nipple my bra, you steek aan die lighter, and then keep the flame a good few centimetres from the lolly. If the flame is too close, you will brand the tik in it’s poes!

Wait until the tik melts lekker, then slowly pull on the lolly. Don’t be versin and pull too hard – unless you want to burn your tongue into holes like Swiss cheese. (And also like your brain, you stupid poes.) Gently roll the lolly; anders gaan jy die tik swart brand! Then as you roll it, see there that the smoke stays even, filling the lolly, and slowly slowly pull. You want to take lekker long hits and breathe in as much of the kak as possible.

Salute my bra. Have a jus time!

There. Now you know. I hope you tweak your stupid head off.

Posted in Addiction, Funny, Meth | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Josh at Gillooly’s Farm on 16 June 2014

We spent some time with Josh yesterday, the day after father’s day, at Gillooly’s Farm. It’s a beautiful place, to which I’d never been before, even though, since I now work in Bedford View, I drive past it every day.

At one stage yesterday, Josh challenged me to a race… I did not let him win. It made me think though, of a lesson that my father taught me… Never give up. I used to challenge him to arm wrestling, and never could quite manage to beat him. (Until adulthood, but that doesn’t count.) So I let Josh come close, close enough to think that maybe he could win, if he just tried a little harder; ran a little faster. Better to leave him with the aspiration to do better, to persevere, than believing winning can be so easy. (And he will beat me one day, since I am past my prime while his is years in the future.)

Josh riding his bicycle down the hill.

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“Push me on there…”

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Climbing up the gigantic dinosaur slide. (This was nerve-wracking for me.)

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

An important message from the bird beagle of the batcraziness (AKA the third eagle of the apocalypse)

His self-imposed title should tell you enough. Religious fanaticism meets loony fucking tunes. Normally I would caution you not to watch religious videos, in case you are gullible enough to go and indoctrinate yourself into their delusional madness, but anybody who believes this guy is already as hopelessly far gone as he is. I found the video here.

Seriously, watch the whole thing. It just gets better and better.

 

Update: I just went to the video URL again, this time to read the comments. They are really quite scary. Check out just two of them:

The number two can be seen everywhere.  She holds two eggs in her hands,  She has two lines up the back of her stockings, the two window panels, the matching red cup and bowl on the counter, the two columns on the side at the beginning, two rings on her fingers,  As far as the stones I saw 5 rows of stones which could be representative of the 5 smooth stones of David strung into a row/ rosary that Satan will have to navigate in order to approach and deceive the church.  Which also is re-inforced by the fact that the ladies with their beads were not deceived.   deceived.  Just a thought.

And this:

The address on Stacy’s house is 3311 or 33 (Illuminati number) and 11 (the number of destruction and number for homosexuality) (seen at 0:15-17).  Also, Stacy drives a Buick LeSabre (The Saber — a sword that destroys) with a license plate # 28R[18] 4H[8]7, which yields an alpha-numeric value of 47 (and 4 + 7 = 11).  No coincidences here.  This commercial is about the destruction of the church.

11 is the number of destruction and number for homosexuality? Oh, isn’t that sweet? I have noticed before that believers in the Illuminati are anti-Semitic. Apparently they are homophobic also?

And on the subject of seeing patterns in numbers, can these people not see that the means they use to make any numbers equal to the “evil” ones, can in fact be used on any numbers? For goodness sake, you might as well say something to the effect of:

666 is the number of the beast. If you divide it by itself, you get 1. Therefore all multiples of 1 are evil.

There you go, fixed that for you, you stupid crazy bastards… Now you don’t have to find weird and wonderful ways of justifying any numbers as evil. They are all multiples of one, which makes as much sense as your broken logic, by the way.

Posted in Conspiracy Theories, Non-addiction | Tagged , ,

Fluoride is not bad for you. (Part 2)

I was just about to empty out my spam and saw that I received the same anti-fluoride spam comment as before, which has been updated with a nod (and a dismissal) to fluoride-based toothpaste. (Ruining my punch line from the last post.)

I still can’t make sense of the well-water fear mongering. Who still drinks well-water anyway?

I’m not going to share the spam comment again, even though the writer invites us all to do so, in case people might read it and think that I endorse that kind of nonsense. Instead, I suggest that if you tend to believe that sort of thing, read these three posts by Dr. Steven Novella:

Posted in Conspiracy Theories, Non-addiction | Tagged ,

News on yet another death from ayahuasca

Doubtful News brings us news of yet another death linked to DMT, the hallucinogenic active ingredient of ayahuasca. It’s sad, but at least this sort of news should hopefully encourage people to look at all the positive but uncritical and unproven praise of this substance going around with a more critical eye. Whenever you hear great things about an hallucinogenic substance, you should consider that it is probably too good to be true. And if you must go and trip on the shit, at least don’t go wondering ‘round any lakes…

Seriously, that post does link to two previous articles about ayahuasca-related deaths.

Posted in Addiction | Tagged , | 10 Comments

My latest using nightmare, and some dream analysis

(I intended the title to be “My latest using dream nightmare” but strikeout is not allowed in the title text.)

I’ve mentioned before that using dreams are actually a type of craving, and that their usual flavour for this craver is the form where I dream that I have already used, and so, in the course of the dream, I go through all the motions and emotions of guilt and disappointment with myself, as I would if I had really used. But last night I had a different kind of using dream, which was also my first such dream in about three months…

Instead of dreaming that I had already used, I dreamed that the decision had been made to use, and all that was left was to decide when to do so. Megan and I were discussing it… She wanted to use immediately, and I wanted to wait until it was “safe” to do so. In the dream she somehow refused to understand that since we are tested every week, there is no way we could use without getting caught. Eventually we agreed not to use at all, because the consequences would be too serious.

So what’s gong on here? I know that in early recovery, and I mean the second time around when I came out of my relapse, the key to my staying clean was, at least at first, to admit to myself that I wanted to use, but had to choose not to do so, not for myself, but for everybody else in my life. That is, I had to make a conscious decision, and remake that decision several times every day, not to use even though I wanted to. In only took about two weeks to get to the point where it became more than a conscious decision, because after getting used to being clean, I didn’t want to use anymore. But now this dream… Does it mean that on some subconscious level, I still want to use?

I remembered the dream as I drove to work this morning, and have been thinking about it ever since. Here’s what I’ve come to believe: It was not really that dissimilar to my usual using dream. Rather than dreaming that I had already used, I dreamed that the decision had been made to use, and I found myself in a position where I had to choose what to do next, without having been part of the decision-making process. Of course it’s a totally contrived situation, one that can never exist in reality, but I think this is the way dreams work: Our minds put us into complex situations, and we learn internally as we deal with those situations.

This reminds me of another dream I’ve had over the years – one that has changed with time. When I was a child, and a teenager, I would often need to pee in the middle of the night. My brain would know I needed to pee, but I would be in too deep a sleep. So I would dream that I was at school, walking to the toilet. But whenever I got there, there would be girls everywhere, making me too shy to take it out and pee. If ever I got to the point of taking it out, crazy things would happen: Space-ships would hover outside the window, volcanoes would erupt, tidal waves and tornadoes would pass by outside. Eventually, I’d figure out that I was dreaming, then wake up and go to the toilet.

On some level, I believed that if I peed in my dream, I would wet the bed, so some part of my mind that knew I was sleeping went to extraordinary lengths to ensure that it didn’t happen. In the last few years, this dream changed. Instead of all those crazy things happening, I’d dream that I did pee, and pee, and pee, and… But with no satisfaction. Eventually, I’d figure out that I was dreaming, and that my old fear of wetting the bed was just a silly childish fear. Then I’d get up and go to the toilet.

Suddenly, and only in the last six months, those dreams don’t happen anymore. If I need to pee, I wake up immediately and go pee. So somehow, my brain learned, through all those years of crazy dreams it threw at me. Somehow the subconscious and conscious parts of my mind learned to talk to each other. I think that in some way, my using dreams, or craving, or whatever I should call them, are similar. It’s just my brain growing, learning and evolving past that stage of being addicted to drugs.

So if you have using dreams, don’t worry about them too much. It’s just, in my opinion, the way the brain learns and adapts to life without drugs, and so in a way they are a good thing.

Posted in Craving, Meth, My life, Recovery, Triggers | Tagged , ,

SEO seems to be the source of most spam these days?

This is a public service announcement…

SEO is an interesting field, and there are some people who have made a lot of money in it. But like most fields that only cropped up in the last few years, there are many (maybe the vast majority) who really don’t have a fucking clue.

SEO is all about improving your site rankings in internet search engines, mostly Google, so that it shows up on top of the search results. That, in theory, should bring you more business, and also more revenue. There are in reality only a few things you need to do in, for example, a public WordPress blog like mine, so that WordPress ensures your entries are all indexed as best they can be. After that, it’s all about writing good content that people will actually read, and being sensible in your choice of keywords for tags, and to a lesser extent, categories, as well as your post titles. That’s all you have to do for the best possible SEO experience.

So when you get generic blog comments like this one…

Hello, I really loved your site. Unfortunatly i found it on the second page of google. its really a shame that big G is not ranking your site among the best of the best. Anyway you may want to try this free tool name SEOIQ [I assume that means low IQ] here is a link [Removed] the software is 100 free. i hope it will help you grow your site and get you more visitors and money. have a Nice day . Greeting from the UK

I’m not even going to think about the grammar this time. As you can see from this terribly written generic-spam-comment-commercial, there is no tool anywhere that can turn bad content into good content. If their tool really did as promised, they would be getting millions of hits via Google, and wouldn’t need to advertise their useless tool in comment spam.

(And for the record, this blog often does come in at the top of the relevant search results, mostly because it has been around for a few years, since 2010.  And maybe my “millions of hits” statement is an exaggeration… but a blog’s age does improve it’s SEO indexing. And it doesn’t make me any money, so I fail to see the logic in targeting public blogs anyway. Then again, maybe there is no logic. These people are stupid.)

Just delete those comments, or try to make others aware of them, as I do…

Posted in Non-addiction | Tagged ,

The Butterfly

Many years ago, when I was five years old, I walked with my Dad one day through a shopping centre as we looked for a gift for Mom’s birthday. Dad found a butterfly pendant and said to me “Tell Mommy you chose it”, and then bought it as her gift from me. I had been taught not to lie, and so I felt very guilty for his white lie, but I tried anyway. I don’t know why – maybe it was because I could not lie, that as I blurted it out too loud, she believed me. Then like the gospels in the Bible, the lie became truth, and it became the gift that her five year old son chose all by himself. She treasured that little golden butterfly for years.

Others always admired it too, even though it wasn’t real gold, even though it was just a cheap piece of jewellery painted gold. My mother kept the pendant for all the years, until it was stolen with all her jewellery about four years ago.

Times haven’t been good to her the last few years. After my father died in 2000, she didn’t really know what to do with herself. They’d been together since she was fourteen, and he nineteen years old, and so she didn’t know life without him. Then she came up to Johannesburg, living in a cottage attached to my brother’s house, and after things initially went fine (apart from the robbery where she lost all her jewellery), my brother developed some strange ideas about her. He invented some memories retrospectively, of things that never happened. One of them was that our mother murdered our father. Then in a strange failure to take any responsibility for his own choices, he blamed her to a large extent for the breakdown of his marriage. As he attended marriage counselling, instead of making any attempt to salvage the marriage, he blamed our mother for everything that ever went wrong in his life, going as far as inventing false memories of her being abusive.

Eventually he grew to hate her, and turfed her out of his house. He deliberately forced her to come live with me, his drug addict brother, knowing then that I was in active addiction. He didn’t even let her have the bed she had been sleeping in, and so for two weeks she had no bed at all.

Things are different now, and I have been clean for some time. Our family will never be the same, and I can not understand why my brother had to make life so unpleasant for his own mother. He has spread his crazy ideas to the extended family (although they do not believe him), he doesn’t allow her to see his children, and I can not currently have Josh sleep over here, because the social worker takes my brother’s nonsensical and slanderous claim’s of her being abusive seriously.

The hatred of a child for their parent is a terrible burden, but the absurd accusations of her murdering our father make it so much worse. In reality, he neither stayed with us when our father died, and nor did he hear our father’s last words to our mother, who did not drive and relied on Dad all her life to drive her to work. “Don’t worry. I’ll still take you to work tomorrow.” He did not know that he was dying, and if he was being murdered, one would certainly have thought he might have noticed.

The other day, Mom noticed a pendant that looked very much like the stolen butterfly pendant, and I really wanted to buy it for her today, but it was too expensive, since this one was real gold. I did, however, find a pretty silver pendant for her instead. Here is a photo of it, enlarged… The pendant is tiny and hangs on a chain around her neck.

SilverButterfly

Just for today, I would like to pretend that this world is a beautiful place, that life is beautiful, that we still have our happy family, and my beautiful baby brother did not grow to hate his mother. I hope you had a lovely day, and enjoy this new gift, treasuring it as you did the old one. I know it can never replace the one from all those years ago, but I hope that this little gift can be a token of the innocence that was lost, the man that is no longer with you, the beautiful family that you had, and the great job you did as a loving wife, good mother, and loving parent. I love you, Mom. Happy Birthday.

Posted in My life, Non-addiction, Relationships | Tagged ,

Scott Wolter: A comedy of conspiracy

Jason Colavito has written a fascinating review of a radio show he heard featuring the lunatic conspiracy beliefs of Scott Wolter. It’s worth reading because it is so funny. Actually I don’t know who Scott Wolter is, I’m not American, and have never watched America Unearthed (and nor will I ever watch it), but have been following the distant wake of that madman for some time now…

Posted in Conspiracy Theories, Non-addiction | Tagged , , , ,

Drug tests don’t lie. Or do they?

I’m hesitant to write this post, because it will contain knowledge that could be used in a deceitful way, though that is not my intention. I’ll explain this in more depth at the end of this post.

I hate drug tests… I really do fucking hate them, but they are a necessary part of recovery. We visited Josh last night, and thus we also did our weekly drug tests.

My approach to these things is simple: I take almost no substances, prescribed or otherwise, because I am always afraid of false positive results. (Except for Compral for my frequent headaches. This contains aspirin and paracetamol, and I did take some yesterday, with no effect on my test.) I intentionally take no interest in the test results, because I know I should never test positive for anything, and should I do so, the person testing me will be sure to let me know…

If I were to test positive in error, I wouldn’t panic. I’d just do what I need to do… maybe get another test, maybe go to the doctor if I was on prescription medication and figure out calmly what gave the false positive result. Megan, on the other hand, does not react well. She panics, gets emotional (which is a normal reaction for anyone who is, for example, accused of lying when telling the truth, or falsely accused of anything) which is maybe a good thing, but it annoys me. Then she jumps to conspirational thinking conclusions, assuming my mother must have poisoned us… My mother would not know enough about any chemical substances to be able to slip any substance into anything we ate or drank to give a positive drug test result, and nor would she want to. But in her panic, Megan will leap to the most absurd conclusions.

Megan went to the doctor recently, and was prescribed Ultak 300, which contains 300mg of Ranitidine, for acid reflux. It turns out that ranitidine is documented to give false positive results in drug tests for methamphetamine. The doctor didn’t tell her this.

Here’s what doesn’t make sense: Although she had taken a substance known for causing false positive meth results, she didn’t test positive for meth, she tested positive for opiates. (As in codeine, morphine, heroin.) She also had a flu shot, which I doubt could do anything, as it just contains unactivated flu virus. She may also have taken Flutex, but I don’t think it contains codeine. (It’s not listed in the ingredients on the website.)

So this is all very annoying. Megan will call the doctor this morning, and then I, if he will write a letter explaining her false positive result, will have to go collect it at lunch time. Except I don’t normally take a full lunch hour. I work in a small place now, doing way more work than I did in my previous job. I am still new here, still proving myself, and I have deadlines for the beginning of next week. This is why I normally write in the morning before I start working, and not during the working day anymore. This is all fucking inconvenient!

Lastly, the reason I say that this knowledge could be used in a deceitful way… Ranitidine is known to cause false positive test results for meth. Therefore, a using addict, knowing that they will test positive, could in theory get themselves a prescription for ranitidine, and claim that their positive result is false. (It’s a long shot because ranitidine will not give you a positive test result every time, but meth obviously will.) I hope that addicts who are in active addiction don’t do that (or are not smart enough to do that), and that was absolutely not the purpose of this post. But if you do, you won’t be able to get away with it more than once, and anyway, you’re only fooling yourself.

Posted in Addiction, Recovery | Tagged | 2 Comments

Bitten by the writing bug?

It’s funny how blog writing grows on you… When I first started four years ago, although I thought I had something to say, I also figured that I wouldn’t be able to sustain it for very long. I wrote slowly, proof-reading obsessively and struggling for hours to find exactly the right words to articulate my thoughts. I wrote, proof-read, corrected, previewed, changed, published, re-read, re-corrected, rewrote, and then republished nearly everything.

Yet, to my surprise, I never ran out of things to say. Four years on and I’m still going strong. These days I write quickly, proof-read and publish, and seldom feel any need to republish. Like everything else, writing gets easier the more you practice.

There are millions of bloggers out there, millions of people with something to say. And there’s always an audience. So if you aren’t already one of them, don’t be too critical of yourself… If you have something to say, say it on your own blog. You’ll be glad you did.

Posted in Non-addiction, Writing | Tagged , ,

On atheism vs. religious indoctrination and religious faith’s implicit prejudice

Yesterday I mentioned that my lack of time for writing is pressing me to spread out my posts, but then in the evening I reblogged a post that was quite close to the thoughts that I had not yet been able to express.

When Josh was born, although at that stage I had already decided that I could no longer call myself a (Catholic or) Christian, I still believed that he should be brought up with the same (Roman Catholic) faith as I was, because I thought it taught good morals and values. I have since changed my mind.

Religion, by its very nature, teaches exclusivity with regards to “eternal life”. Each and every religion teaches that it’s particular god is the true god, and only if you follow that god, you will be granted eternal life. All other gods are false. In the past, that meant that other gods could be demonized, and practitioners of other religions could be persecuted, or tried for devil worship and witchcraft. In the more civilized parts of the world, that can no longer happen, but make no mistake, the underlying belief remains.

While you may think that your religion teaches you good moral values, that is only because you are unable to see past your own bias, and thus unable to see your own prejudice. It doesn’t matter that all religions work the same way. They all create this faith in an unfalsifiable god by a method known as indoctrination, which is the teaching of children not to question from an early age, effectively brainwashing them.

While the religious (mostly) do not endorse prejudice in public, what’s said in private is a different matter altogether. Here’s why: You can not be a devout believer without somehow believing that your religion, your people, are better than others. Superior to the others. Prejudice is in actuality, implicit to religious faith. The values that you think were taught by religion are actually quite warped. They marginalize other belief systems (that as stated, are really exactly the same in nature as your own), other cultures, and other races. Some of the religious don’t draw the line there, and are also prejudiced against people who are gay and lesbian.

Thus I believe that teaching a child to have your religious faith is despicable. It’s one of the worst things that most so-called normal and “good” parents frequently do.

Of course, this brings me back to Josh. Since I am not bringing him up, even though I will hopefully take over within the next year, I have to watch from the side-lines as he is taught religious nonsense. It’s been immensely frustrating, trying to come up with a reasonable way to address this, especially considering that I am the only atheist in the family anyway.

I have decided not to teach him that there is no god, because ultimately I don’t know. I also won’t teach him that there are no unicorns, dragons or fairies. But I will teach him that some people, myself included, do not believe in any god, and that it is acceptable to do so, as well as that you can have far more sensible morals and values without religion and it’s implicit prejudice, without being on “the devil’s team” as he put it on Sunday. This is the most important part of what I have been taught by the writings and documentaries of Richard Dawkins: that it’s OK not to believe and it is justifiable to question the beliefs of others. My one consolation is that at six years old, Josh also still believes in Santa Claus.

Posted in My life, Non-addiction, Parenting, Relationships | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments