Saturday, December 20, 2014

Yelp is a scam, if you didn't know. And other tales from my hectic life...

I keep forgetting to mention this, but remember that commercial I said I did for Dr. Hypno? It turned out really nice, but it was not ever posted online because it was done through the scam known as Yelp. I didn't even think to check it out beforehand since other hypnotists that compete with Dr. Hypno have Yelp pages with very professional-looking video ads.
` Problem is, when Dr. Hypno tried it for his own practice, it was fairly worthless besides making a commercial with an independent company -- and he will still have to pay that company $500 just to use it.
` Besides not putting the video up, nor good reviews he's had from clients, Yelp charged him $18 per click on his ad -- and it mysteriously got 11 clicks on the first day. He tried to contact the people in charge of Yelp, and was subsequently blocked from accessing the very page he had paid for.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Psychedelics ≠ Intoxicants: A cultural commentary

I said I wouldn't do this again, but a certain skeptical entertainer, which I have finally revealed as George Hrab, has inspired me to write about psychedelics once more -- here's the backstory, if you are interested/concerned for my mental health.
` The crux of it is, I feel an urge to speak up when people espouse false information or condescending attitudes about things I have an understanding and appreciation of -- especially when the point of their podcast is to help dispel myths and propaganda, and otherwise have a geeky good time.

After answering a listener question about the psychedelic brew ayahuasca in Episode 385, I was tempted to write Geo another email, but instead thought it would be better as a more generalized piece on my blog.
` Granted, if I had my own podcast up and running, I would already have a much more interesting public platform at which to direct people when they make dismissive or misinformed comments about topics that I think are important. That'll be the next step for me. For now, I'll do what I can here.

I also want to mention that I have not had much Internet access while writing this text file, so it isn't full of links to sources, which I would prefer it to be -- even moreso than my previous four articles on the subject.
` If you think I'm wrong about something, go ahead and check it for yourself -- it's the skeptical way, right? Besides, I loves me some comments, so fire away if you think I'm wrong, or have any other thoughts!
` Also, I would like to point out that my use of the pronoun 'you', as opposed to 'one' is meant to help connect what I'm writing with 'your imagination'. Although I've included descriptions of psychedelic states before, this is meant to be the most 'vivid', if that makes sense.

So, here's the text file from my laptop, cutted and pasteded for your enjoyment:

Why do some intelligent, critical thinking-type people still dismiss psychedelic drugs as not important to neuroscience, psychotherapy, history, art, religion, and/or even as an experience to be had?
` It's abundantly clear (as I hope I've shown already) that they are, but why is it that some skeptical types are keenly interested in this stuff, while others think very lowly of it?

It's not just because psychedelics are classified as a Schedule I drug, it's because of the myths about them that are meant to justify their illegality. What's the worst myth of them all? That they're somehow more damaging than the most damaging drug in the world -- alcohol. After all, alcohol is legal, so how could it be worse than LSD? Or marijuana, for that matter...
` Because everyone knows that alcohol is a powerful inebriant, they might assume that psychedelics will just make you lose awareness/control of yourself in a similar way. It is the familiarity, legality and social acceptance of alcohol which actually works against the public understanding of psychedelics.

This realization came sharply into focus while listening to Geo's podcast when he called ayahuasca and mushrooms "intoxicants", a word which implies toxicity and a loss of control of one's faculties or behavior. He has said in the past that he doesn't want to experience intoxication and has an "irrational sense" of almost-superiority because of this.
` Apparently, this attitude is very ingrained in his identity, as is his grouping of various "drugs" together in the category of "intoxicants". Some people, though they might use alcohol or marijuana, may say that they aren't the "type of person" to take "hard drugs" like "heroin or LSD", as though those are somehow equivalent.
` Laughably misguided as this is, some of these people are fairly rigid in this part of their identity, and I've seen a few react quite emotionally upon hearing facts to the contrary. It is then ironic that a good dose of LSD is known to reveal the core awareness that lies beneath such cognitive dissonance -- but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Although Geo has expressed some strong opinions about "drugs" based on his impressions of them, he has said that he knows very little about them, and that he's not the one to ask about this subject. I've met quite a few people who fit this description, so perhaps it shouldn't be surprising to them to learn that psychedelics are a bit more complicated than mere "intoxicants":

Their primary effect is quite different from alcohol, almost the opposite, in fact -- although still very different from the primary effects of the "intoxicants" known as caffeine and nicotine. No, it's not the hallucinations which make psychedelics unique:

It's important to note that there are three main classes of hallucinogens: Deliriants, dissociatives, and psychedelics. The first two tend to cause more confusion and delusions of unreality, but the third lends itself more to reflection and meditation:
` The word 'psychedelic' means 'mind expanding' or 'mind manifesting', and those who study and/or have experienced these effects do not use this term in an ironic fashion.

Psychedelics like ayahuasca, psilocybin mushrooms, LSD and mescaline are known to increase self-awareness to such a shocking degree that they can be used to hurl people out of their addictions and traumas.
` It is common for people to change their personalities based on what they learn about themselves in the space of a few hours' trip. (Especially when in the proper set and setting.)

So far, these drugs are not known to cause brain damage, despite their incredibly strong effects: Unlike stimulants, opiates, and the rest, which bring about familiar states of consciousness, psychedelics change the quality of consciousness itself.

Hence, the impossibility of describing this to people who can't imagine what a "different" quality of consciousness would be like. Different in what way?

Far from causing extreme incoherence or speediness, the overall effect (under proper conditions) is generally an increase in sobriety, lucidity, sensory awareness, self-awareness, and being 'present' in the moment.
` Whereas caffeine gives one a narrowness of focus and possibly the jitters, psychedelics are very 'clean'. They allow one's very consciousness to perceive much more than it normally can, literally broadening what is possible to experience.
` According to actual psychedelics researchers and experienced trippers alike, you start to notice things you never noticed before, and can feel the "space" in your mind expand as though it was a physical space:

At a "Level 2" or so, it expands to the point of opening up into a sort of 'virtual reality headspace' that you cannot normally access. It actually feels like a parallel physical space that surrounds you, yet is clearly separate from your perception of the actual world.
` Only when the fetters are lifted can you be made aware that they were even there, and you realize that you have lived your entire life up to that point being held firmly in place, with your face up against a tiny window of perception.

Now that you are free to turn your head (or, change perspectives in your head) for the first time in your life, you are astonished to find that surrounding you is an entire universe that has been there all along but that you have never even suspected was there. How does it all fit into your brain?
` Closing your eyes to "look around" in this space, you may blanch at ornate fractal landscapes filling your mind's eye to infinity in all directions at once. You can even have an 'inner body' which may be distorted with an indeterminate number of appendages that you can both feel and move independently of your actual body.

It's as though you can experience two different 'dimensions' existing in the same space, and can choose which one to give your attention: The world of sensory perception of what's around you (which may be distorted/augmented), or the one in which you appear to be some kind of alien, melding with surreal landscapes that you can see in multiple directions at once.
` As I mentioned in my last post, as you get higher, the more this inner reality takes hold, and in some cases it can actually obscure sensory data. Still, this does not necessarily mean that the person experiencing this suddenly believes that the inner world is "really happening".

Geo asked how much stranger this would be than "a dream or a thought where you can rid yourself of outer influence". I'm not sure what he meant by "outer influence", but this is not exactly an isolation tank trip, or a lucid dream.
` This is exploring another 'reality' in your head, and manipulating what you find therein, to your advantage. This is a tool kit:

Sunday, December 7, 2014

My life and blog content... what's going on here?

Have the machine elves abducted me and made me their slave? Not exactly...

Since TAM 2014, I have been essentially living out of a suitcase, with little in the way of internet access outside of my phone. In September, I outright bought a similar car to my previous one, and in November I got my belongings out of storage and into an office -- only to find that they were not all there.
` Still, life is slowly improving, as I've actually been paid for some of my writing, and I look forward to being paid for more. Even both of my cats have a place to live! I, still, do not have my own place, although I no longer live with six messed-up roommates, and keep well away from my abusive ex as much as I can.

Although there are many varied posts in 'draft' form on this blog, I've mostly been publishing ones about psychedelics for a while, for various reasons:

Shortly after TAM 2012, I started learning how the mind and brain can be warped with hypnosis and psychedelics, and also their relationship to woo and religion. Fascinating stuff.
` I also learned how people in this culture have been purposely brainwashed by the government to dismiss psychedelics, as well as marijuana, in spite of scientific findings.

It's like a skeptical smorgasboard!

At TAM 2013, I actually talked about writing about psychedelics with Michael Shermer, who said it would be a great topic for me to write about for Skeptic Magazine. Although other articles about psychedelics and 'the war on drugs' have appeared in Skeptic, none of them have been by me.

That's mostly because my life was becoming more and more of a living hell as the person I was living with and taking care of became more paranoid, narcissistic, gaslighting, frightening -- well, he almost killed me with his utter neediness and crazy-making.
` I'm almost ashamed to admit, but he convinced me into thinking that my desire to write meant that there was something wrong with me, and that I had some kind of 'glued to the screen' addiction because of it.
` (If that is so, then Dr. Karl has such an addiction far worse than I, and he told me this at TAM 2014!)

I've written about my situation a few times on my blog during this time, just to tell people that I'm still interested in writing about intellectually-challenging topics, but was under the sleep deprived spell of a dying control freak who was being denied the healthcare that he desperately needed.
` Instead, it was my job to take care of him and drive him to the ER a lot, and take the blame for problems of his that I did not cause. And if I didn't like it, then I was just 'trying to kill him', and no, don't tell anyone else because they don't know the truth, blah blah blah...

I knew it was wrong to stay, especially since it kept tearing away all the progress I was making in breaking out of three decades of PTSD-causing narcissistic and institutional abuse, torture, etc., but I didn't want to let him die.
` Since it's resulted in permanent nerve damage in my face, and another couple of years of my life wasted, I actually regret not just walking out the door and letting him die of starvation. Or at least dumping him at a hospital before leaving and telling them that he will die if they kick him out.

During the same time span since 2012, I was listening to back-episodes of the Geologic Podcast, which I found to be inspirational to my own podcast -- yes, it is possible to attract an audience with entertainment, music, shlock and silliness! I like. It was a welcome distraction of sanity while I was trying to keep my brain functioning at least slightly.

In many of these episodes, I was shocked at the condescending nature of Geo's comments about all 'drugs', including psychedelics. He even essentially said that LSD made the Beatles' Sargent Pepper album, and other psychedelically inspired works, worse than they could have been.
` This is someone who should know better than to spread propaganda  -- on his skeptical podcast!! -- although I didn't think it was worth telling him unless I knew just what to say.

Starting about a year ago, during a particularly rough time, I felt the need to write on my blog, but didn't have the brainpower or internet power to write blog posts that required frontal lobes to understand. So, I wrote emails to people, including Geo, which I've described a while back.

It wasn't until last spring and summer that for whatever reason I became so offended by Geo's misguided and inaccurate remarks that I sought to educate him on the subject. After all, he is misinforming his audience.

So, I wrote him some emails about psychedelics. It doesn't seem as though he's read them, but I thought they were good enough to fix up and post on my blog, and that's what became Parts 1-3 of The Ultimate Skeptic's Head trip (starting here).
` Based on the responses I've gotten, it's apparently possible for some skeptics to appreciate what I've written and become interested in the subject themselves. It was only then that I revealed who the emails were to.

I've also added a Part 4, which was a conglomeration of material from various sources that all sort of fit into the same blog post -- although it was a tight squeeze. I figured that was enough psychedelic material for now, but have since changed my mind:

Last month, Geo made some dismissive comments about ayahuasca on his show, which inspired me to finally write that article I've been meaning to write for Skeptic Magazine. I think I understand my angle now.

Without my own internet access, this is difficult, but in order to help myself break out of the rut I'm in, I set out to develop my inspiration by writing him another email. Then I realized that this was probably a mistake, so I figured it would be better-received if I posted it straight to my blog.

That will be my next post -- which you can now read here. And the one after that will, mercifully, be on another topic -- this time, the facts and fallacies of hypnosis.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Ultimate Skeptic's head Trip (Part 4)

Here is the last of this particular head trip, although more will be forthcoming on this blog and elsewhere. In Parts 1-3, I've highlighted what psychedelics reveal about the brain and mind and a bit of their role in history, religion, art and science.
` It's quite fascinating stuff, starting here -- you ought to know it before pushing ahead into the last and longest-winded post of them all.

This time, we'll be merrily tripping into slightly different territory -- more on what psychedelics reveal about the self, and how quickly that self can change. I will also share my thoughts on how this relates to why these drugs are banned in much of the world.
` In Parts 1-3, I have also included descriptions of psychedelic experiences from people such as Jennifer Ouellette, Sam Harris, and many others (some anonymous).
` This time, I am employing descriptions from psychologist Timothy Leary, the neuroscientist Robin Carhart-Harris, the ethnobotanist Terrence McKenna -- and more -- for specific reasons which will become clear as we travel down the rabbit hole to the inner wonderland that is usually invisible.

I will discuss two main aspects of psychedelic trips -- their uniqueness and their utility. Although, for those who have expressed curiosity as to what they are like after reading the first three parts, I will start with a visual tour of the various depths of psychedelic experience that can be achieved.
` Here's a short video on the agreed-upon intensity levels of psychedelic experiences, which are classified as 1 through 5. If you'd rather skip it, or can't play it, I've summarized the levels below:

* Level 1 -- Clear-headed, although at the same time "high" as with marijuana; extremely dilated pupils and apparent visual enhancement; music seems to have a spatial quality.
* Level 2 -- Open eye visuals where objects appear to move and breathe; closed eye visuals of two dimensional patterns; noticeably elevated levels of abstract thought.
* Level 3 -- Open eye visuals of patterns, etc. on surfaces; complex, three-dimensional closed eye visuals; increased suggestibility; synesthesia, such as seeing and feeling sounds as colorful shapes and patterns. Though there seems to be much more clarity and connection with one's mind, the connection with motor control becomes a bit 'drunken' at this point.
* Level 4 -- Strong hallucinations that put WETA Workshop to shame; Closed-eye visuals of extremely complex moving patterns that seem to defy geometry; Destruction/division of the ego; Senses blend and sensory input becomes more difficult to process; Seemingly ESP-like phenomena.
* Level 5 -- Complete disconnection with vision and body; feeling as though reality is a computer simulation; immersion in an alternate kaleidoscopic dimension; obtaining what seems to be universal knowledge; encountering super-intelligent entities or an all-knowing presence.
` Despite being physically incapacitated by the 'virtual reality' at this level, one can still retain one's ability to think about what is happening to them in a fairly rational manner. (i.e. "Where has this chemical substance taken me now!?" or as Terrence McKenna has said, "Good grief, I've really done it this time!")

This may be a useful way of categorizing these experiences, although by no means can it communicate the reality, value, or utility of the subjective and neurological effects. Flashy graphics can clue people in on some of the visuals, but these cannot portray the most transformative aspects.
` So far in this series, I've included plenty about how classic psychedelics, such as LSD and psilocybin, can be used to bring about very definite ego dissolution, and help people to see how their brains construct their own personal narrative and perception of everyday reality.

The self, we know, is a process, which one's awareness can observe. From the "outside", it is possible to witness the 'selfing' occurring in your own brain. For those who are looking for a description of what this is like, alas, words can only get one so far into terra incognita:
` As I have also pointed out, the 'haves' consider a trip (especially above a level 1) outright impossible to convey to the 'have-nots': Those who are about to open the doors of perception for the first time have no idea where the doors are located, much less what can be perceived through them.

If you know more than one language, you will have had the pleasure of explaining the meaning of some phrases and words which cannot be translated directly. You will also have found that the exact sense of the meaning can still be difficult even when explaining translations.
` A much more extreme example of untranslateability is sometimes known in the psychedelic community as "translating down" experiences from the expanded mind into everyday language.
` These go so far beyond language itself that they are not possible to describe with ordinary terminology, or even art. As they say, you'd have to be there to understand it.

Various psychedelic phenomena are so alien that even if more precise language was developed to describe them, a 'have-not' would still be unable to grasp the meaning of the new words. Think of the futility in describing vision to someone who doesn't even know what seeing is like:
` You can use words such as 'yellow' or 'shaded', but they will not understand what it really 'looks like'. And what happens if you try to explain those concepts with other words? There's no real substitute, is there?

It is a psychedelic truism that when one is so far into inner space, looking back onto the tight funnel of ordinary consciousness, it is apparent that language is a blunt instrument, unable to express the richness of such inner life.
` From here, the dimness and distortions of language can seem like a cage, or to have more potential at spinning delusional narratives than clarity. Those who study language, influence, rhetoric and manipulation, who can see how easily our sense of reality is directed by linguistic constructs, may well agree here.

Despite the impossibility factor, psychedelic researchers do their darnedest to put these experiences into everyday language. Robin Carhart-Harris, the first scientist to be legally permitted to study psychedelics since the widespread ban, is one among a growing handful today.
` He has tried describing psychedelic experiences in another video, which I shall save for the bottom of the page. For now, I shall paraphrase his way of "translating down" for the have-nots:

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Surviving and keeping sane whilst attempting to transcend the asylum

I've been insanely busy lately, and have been writing about other things such as The Teen Brain on Cannabis. As much as I love the stuff, it's important to learn about the negative effects it can have, as well as to think about the causes of teen drug use.

Though my The Amazing Meeting (TAM) series is still somewhat backburnered, here's a little taste: Richard Saunders (who I heart forever) interviewed me about the Solar Flare drawings I had made (now framed and in Australia). You can hear that at about 15:45 in episode 301 of the Skeptic Zone.

Last weekend, I was shooting a commercial for Rob (hypnotist of doom), and have been learning more about hypnosis, mentalism, magic, scientology, faith healing and acupuncture and how they're all basically suggestion techniques used for different purposes.

Before moving onto the rest of my news, I bet some of you are wondering who I was trying to drag through the Ultimate Skeptic's Head Trip parts 1-3. That would be the very sweet, square, snarky, skeptical and strange musician/entertainment guy, George Hrab.

Last winter and spring, I was able to occasionally blog about how doubleplus ungood my life had become, considering that it required less brainpower than writing about science. During whatever tedium was at hand, I spent a lot of time listening to many of Geo's earlier podcasts. It really helped me to make fun of the actual crazy-making going on around me.

As I listened back and forth between semi-random older episodes as well as the newest ones, I noticed that Geo started out having more sketches and segments, whereas in newer episodes he mentioned how he doesn't do as much of that as before.

In one of the newer episodes, he talked about how he has lived in the same place and has retained the same recreational habits for the past 20 years. He also said that he's never had to go through any sort of terrible ordeal or illness. I recognized this lack of upheaval as one of the probable reasons his creative output and evolution no longer seemed to be going as fast as previously.

At times, I was also experiencing a lot of really neat, hypnosis-related surreality in my life as well as learning various ways of building one's mental flexibility and creativity. However, due to my decision to take care of my ex, I was using these skills to improve my 'adaptation to tough times' ability.

For months, neither my brain nor laptop were both functioning and online, thus making writing, building my own mental flexibility, and checking sources all the more difficult. I did, occasionally, climb out of the muck and revert once again to my clear-headed state long enough to study more survival and sanity skills for a few days.

Fighting to internalize this knowledge, I figured that at very least, I should be able to write something from the top of my head about this subject which would be intelligible enough to be interesting or even useful. Not so much for a blog post, but for emails, and one of those emails went to Geo.

It might have stopped there, except I also noticed that Geo often mentioned that he didn't do any mind-altering drugs -- except the (mind-narrowing) substances caffeine and tobacco.

He didn't seem to think those narrow his creativity, so to speak, yet he has opined that mind-expanding drugs, among others, probably hinder other musicians' creativity. Yes, this includes The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, and the one he practically has a segment about, Yes.

That really blew my mind.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Ultimate Skeptic's Head Trip (Part 3)

I'm at the third psychedelic post of prose which has spewed forth from my fingers. If you haven't read the first two, you may want to:
` I've spent most of Part 1 focusing on common misconceptions about psychedelic (literally "mind-expanding") drugs, and some of their effects on one's senses and sense of self, etc. -- although I did let Jennifer Ouellette do most of the talking.
` Part 2 is my own lengthy overview about some of the reasons why skeptics would find psychedelics interesting (including their roles in religion, art, and science), along with some of my strange encounters with people who seem somewhat 'on the inside, looking out'.

Since time has been short for writing, I've been exploiting material I've written over the previous months and expanding it into blog post form.
` This third post has actually taken a little work because it is a complete bastardization of the other two bits of psychedelically-themed emailage that I sent to the same person. The first involved some commentary on two articles that two different people had sent me links to in early July, which I read before getting back to packing up my stuff into storage.

That's when I went to The Amazing Meeting 2014 for science and skepticism (with minimal fear and loathing) in Las Vegas -- this time sleep-deprived in advance! Good thing there were plenty of opportunities to rest from all the chaos!
` As usual, my rambling around was quite mind-altering, from chats with myriad skeptics at the South Point to backstage with Penn and Teller at the Rio. It left me feeling almost energized, in a excitingly drained sort of way.
` I even spent much of my time seeking out people who found all this mind-bendingness fascinating. Even Captain Disillusion (who as I understand is from some kind of continuum), seemed spellbound by how they affect individuals and culture.
` With my podcast recorder, I interviewed various people about mentalism (Jonny Zavant), hypnosis (Matt Baxter) and psychedelics (with a neuroscientist whose name you probably wouldn't recognize), amongst other topics and skeptic-type folk.

I had also interviewed my email recipient before I had turned more of my podcasting interests towards such mind-bending topics. As I was back to podcast editing again in my new chaotic environment, I found a reason to send him one last email.
` This, then, is my lovely bastardization, which, like the original, starts out with my commentary on an article sent to me from Mind Unleashed called, Scientists Studied What Psychedelics Do to the Brain, and it's Not What You've Been Told.
` It refers to this placebo-controlled study, which shows that long-lasting psychological growth and increased openness can indeed be achieved with proper psychedelic therapy, particularly after a relatively high ego-dissolving dose.
` I recommend reading both. In the article, my eye was caught by such paragraphs as:

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Ultimate Skeptic's Head Trip (Part 2)

This is the follow-up to a post/email containing a presentation by Jennifer Ouellette on psychedelics research, as well as a few words on ignorant criticism of said research by so-called skeptics.
` If you haven't seen it, please do, I'll wait. :-)
` This time, I even left in the questions that I originally directed at the email recipient, and since those have gone unanswered, I leave them to my readers here to ponder and comment on:

As I've said, psychedelics are like the ultimate skeptic's drug, and were once more openly popular among scientists for expanding their imaginations and problem-solving abilities:

Francis Crick, according to those who survived him, discovered the double helix by using his LSD-expanded mind as something like a molecular CAD program. Kary Mullis said that he probably would not have invented PCR without the use of LSD.

Many other visionaries, such as Steve Jobs, Richard Feynman and John C Lilly, all considered LSD an important part of their lives and work. Really. I even just found an article about it. (And noticed that Jennifer Ouellette gave it a +1.)

I'm curious to know your probably-snarky thoughts on this method of scientific theorizing and modeling.

Similarly, many great philosophers and artists were into these drugs for the opportunity to stretch their minds in a way impossible to do otherwise.

That changed when masses of hippies began stretching their minds in criticism of the Nixon Administration, which responded by banning "those dirty hippie drugs". This also shut down the work of psychedelics researchers and sought to ruin it for hip people in general.

In her interview on Skeptic's Guide at NECSS, Jennifer did mention her own mind-stretching trip, although I'm not sure if she brought it up much otherwise. Greg Dorais directed me to another interview, on Science for the People.

Starting at minute 32, Ouellette talks about how she went from being not into drugs other than alcohol to being "that person at the party", and described what it was like.

She also explains about how psilocybin (which is similar to LSD) apparently reduces the filtration of the senses (making them more vivid), as well as reducing self-concepts. As she points out, "Part of constructing one's mind and perception is imposing restraints on what you can perceive."

Strangely, the ego or self is something one doesn't notice until one no longer senses its weight around one's consciousness. And what is the "I" that is experiencing the world with the ego cast off like some coat?

It is awareness, without the social matrix programming stretched across one's perceptions. Without that part of our self-process, we can see zen-like, as through new eyes. Dozens of new eyes. I've learned there is a lot to this:

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Ultimate Skeptic's Head Trip (Part 1)

Now that I have a chair and some amount of privacy for the moment, I can continue, then persist. Although there are The Amazing Meeting posts in the works, I already have a backlog of pre-existing material.
` I actually emailed a version of this post on June 7, to a skeptical activist who was both at Skepticon 5 and seems to be afraid of using any substance besides the mind-narrowing drugs caffeine and tobacco:

"Psychedelics aren't good for escapism. They're going to make you think."

"That is the shocking and revelatory thing that people experience with psychedelics. We have this unconscious feeling that we have always been who we are, and we don't realize that we are just a construct."

-- Robin Carhart-Harris

You have mentioned your fascination with Heather Berlin's talk at NECSS, about how one's involuntary processes can decide to say, pick something up, before your voluntary mind does so. Thus, I was wondering if you'd seen this talk by Jennifer Ouellette while you were at Skepticon 5.

I've just run across the video of it where she talks about the drugs that allow one to see one's own deep, unconscious processes weave into a narrative of a self. I thought that if you hadn't seen it before, you might find yourself drooling in five dimensions.

I most appreciate the fact that Ouellette dispels a lot of cultural myths about psychedelics, spread by the mass media, etc, while at the same time describing some of their actual effects, science, and history. It's good to know that I'm not the only one with this interest!

I count myself among those in the skeptical community who might call psychedelics the ultimate skeptic's or thinker's drug, because of the way they engage one's critical faculties, creativity, self-concept, and create various experiences which point to the roots of spiritual beliefs.

The truth is, many scientists, artists, and philosophers have credited psychedelics for inspiring their work, and this doesn't surprise me. Plus, as Ouellette describes, these drugs seem to have real potential for various medical uses, including preventing or breaking the cycle of substance abuse.

Bafflingly, certain others of the skeptical community insist that these drugs cannot be used in most of this research, including (as Ouellette experienced) in studying the self construct. These same people have apparently never even read about this research, and are happy to continue with their ignorance.

You'd think more people who label themselves skeptics would be jumping at the chance to clear up all these misconceptions and promote the facts, as skeptics are supposed to do. Yet at the same time, some others seem more interested in perpetuating the myths.

These particular people will roll their eyes if I say there are no cases of brain damage, addiction or death directly from LSD, yet won't bother searching for case reports to disprove me.

If I tell them about psychedelic synesthesia that allows one to "look" at one's own mind (and perhaps even brain structures!), these same people would just dismiss that as pseudoscience without even checking to see whether their assumption makes sense.

Though these "skeptics" aren't exercising their critical thinking faculties, they tell me that I am the one who needs to be more skeptical!

Interestingly, although many skeptic and atheist activists love discussing the world's religions, few of them seem to know that there are religious texts and clear pictures showing that magic mushrooms were used in churches, temples, etc.

If you've never heard of any of this, then you will find my next post to be a strange trip indeed: I will continue my own overview of this subject and discuss some of the more bizarre false ideas I've heard about psychedelics, including ones from so-called skeptics.

Although I was very interested in the squarely-outside perspective of the person I sent this email to, I never got any response. If anyone else would like to comment on this post, and on Ouellette's discussion, I would very much appreciate it!

Or maybe you would prefer to check out the strange trip of Part 2 before commenting...

Monday, August 4, 2014

There's so much I need to catch up on, where to start? How about...

Not only is my computer currently connected to the internet, but it's fast enough to access my unpublished drafts -- for months I was worried that they had been erased because the 'posts' page wouldn't load up. I can't say how often I will have a stable connection, but when I do, it makes blogging so much simpler.*

There's so much to write about, including my trip to The Amazing Meeting, what I've learned about hypnosis, the crazy drama coming at me from all angles, and what I've been doing to avoid losing my mind and being without a place to live or transportation.

My daily life in an 8-person dwelling continues to be rough, but at least I don't have to maintain a sizeable grow-op while preventing the death of an incoherent, abusive partner who emotionally blackmailed me out of blogging, taking care of my health, getting out of the house to save my sanity, contacting other people to maintain my counterstories, etc.

As far as writing goes, I'm so overwhelmed with material and may need a while to pick through my blog drafts and notes in order to figure out the optimal next post.

Believe it or not, it was Karl Kruzelnicki who got me to realize that I need not feel ashamed of needing to take so long to write anything, and that this is not a sign of some 'mental illness' as I was led to believe.

And so, I am standing up, with my laptop balanced at just the right height for my hands to type without straining the tendons in my wrists.

It's strange what posture does to one's mind -- I've spent the past year and a half doing physical rehab for injuries I've had most of my life, and it's done wonders for my attitude!

For example, one's glutei maximi are supposed to be around the side of grapefruits, but mine (on the citrus glute scale) were the size of a lemon and a lime in 2012. Walking and standing were always a struggle, even with an hour of cardio a day, because I was building up the wrong muscles!

Atrophied glutes are literally the center of my foot/ankle/hip/shoulder/neck problems, and building them up to normal size allows me to stand up and walk straight, with hardly any limping or cowering. When my muscles are firing more normally, I don't feel the emotional instability, fear and defensiveness because I'm not struggling to hold myself up physically.

My left foot can now plant almost normally, as long as I keep grinding the deforming callus off, and that keeps my hips and knees at the right angles. But enough of that nonsense!

Anyway, I'm standing now because I refuse to sit down to write, simply because all the seats and chairs around the house are little more than one foot high, and I can no longer tolerate sitting either with my knees crunched up or my legs stretched across the floor -- it has both musculoskeletal and emotional effects.

Yes, it is possible to stack objects on top of chairs, however it is difficult to maintain my balance, especially since the chairs are not level. If I'm going to sit, I need to have my feet flat on the floor and to be able to sit up straight like I teach my muscles to do every day in rehab.

Speaking of rehab, I'm about to leave to get a new gym membership. When I get back, I'll continue writing, but about things other than my ass making me feel empowered.

[Edit: August 9th I found a chair on the side of the road that's of the right height, and isn't even broken, so enough with all this standing nonsense! My feet are much happier as well. :-) ]

*My normal methodology is to either start by researching on the internet, or to start writing about something I have been learning about otherwise until I run into uncertainty. Then, I do more internet research until I realize how unimaginative and inaccurate my post would have been if I had just kept writing without bothering to learn more.

Basically, I alternate between writing and checking until my original post has been massively re-written for both accuracy and interestingness. Whilst I'm doing this, I copy and paste a lot of links, photos, quotes, and add other formatting, which is a real chore to type in manually when I'm getting it from another form of internet access.

Such as my iPhone, which has a very slow 3G connection and won't load up half the websites I want to look at. But wait, Spoony, didn't you get a Galaxy tablet that you said you would be using to surf the interwebs while homeless? Yes -- and I've never been able to connect it to the internet!

So yes, while it is possible to type up a blog post on a word processor that isn't directly connected to the internet, it's vastly simpler and easier when it is. Especially when my brain is addled from my living situation -- hence I spend a lot of time away from the house!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

I would really love to blog about everything...

However, I don't have an internet connection, so all I can do is text message blog posts. I went to the amazing meeting and am moving into this new place. The other people haven't moved out yet so our belongings are in limbo. A lot of stuff has happened, if you've seen my Facebook posts.

Anyway, writing with my thumb is getting strenuous -- there's got to be a better way!

Maybe connecting the phone to the computer? Time will tell.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

In the plane on my way to TAM

Packed up my belongings, put them in storage. I don't have another place to live yet, but will be crashing at the South Point for The Amazing Meeting!

I wrote a long post about hypnosis I would have posted, but for weeks I have not been able to access my drafts. Which is where all my future posts have been stored.

Now my hypno skills will be put to the test. That will be an article enough!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

I've been hoping I would have some good news to share...

Last fall, my mind went away for the winter, due to extreme illness, starvation, sleep deprivation, repeated isopropyl alcohol poisoning, severe abuse, and generally being overworked. I had a period of better luck for a while, during which I was going to blog, but my internet was out until more things started to shut my brain down again.

This is partly because of the back injury that L.R. got while at work in 2012, which has gone untreated because no one who is allowed to sign the work insurance form has also found his injury. Which almost killed him by making him throw up uncontrollably every night around 2:30 in the morning to the point of stomach paralysis.

Unable to get food through his stomach, he was incoherent, crawling on the floor, constantly falling asleep, and almost died of toxic buildup and malnutrition until one trip to the emergency room happened to land him with metoclopramide, which fixed his condition right away.

This was April 1, the evening after Dr. Lynch, the guy who said he was going to sign the form to open the insurance claim, said that not only would he not sign it, but would not even look to see whether the injury was there or not.

Later on, L.R. and my mom and myself went to see Dr. Olson, the 2011 doctor of the year who diagnosed Lucas' injury. Since he is a pain specialist he is not allowed to sign the insurance form, although he and a doctor he was training laughed about Lynch not being able to find the injury, which they described as "the size of a breakfast sausage."

Last Friday (which was also around when two of my cats were stolen and taken to the pound, thus draining us of well over $200), we did see a doctor who found the injury and seemed quite willing to sign the form.

This morning we found out that he changed his mind because the claim is supposedly TOO OLD to be opened by now. And we're supposed to get a LOT of money in back pay and paying for Lucas' back! Well, at least we didn't lose the cats!

With no money at all, we are being forced out of the house by our landlords, who scammed us out of $26 grand using an invalid contract, which they are now trying to pretend never existed.

And, just tonight, some beady-eyed crackhead stole my iPhone5 and wallet from the women's locker room.

So, that's the state of affairs just now. If you've wondering why I haven't been writing about science, well, constant stress has a tendency to take one's brain out of commission.

Even though I'm otherwise healthy and usually getting enough food and sleep, and Lucas is now remembering and apologizing for all the terror he put me through when he believed that I hated him and was trying to kill him, I'm having a tough time recovering.

I really, really could use a hug. For now, I've been focusing more on learning how to control my mind -- and other's minds -- with hypnosis. I'm planning on continuing to learn at TAM as I practice on people. :-)

I would consult my Facebook account for further stuff that's been happening, however Facebook is having some sort of error and won't work. Which is annoying, because without a phone, that is my only way of contacting people.

Yes, I did change my password and closed other sessions, so it's probably not the crackhead.

Anyway, I hope I have better news tomorrow. I keep thinking there's a light at the end of the tunnel. My life's been full of drama and trauma practically since I was born -- continual crazy making / torture at home, school, hospitals, etc. I'm 32 already and think I deserve a break from the gaslighting and pointless bodily suffering!

Also, not a bad time to become a hypnotist! So, I'm going to work on my state of mind now.

Hoping that when I come back to Blogger, it still exists. Also hoping that I can access my draft posts and finish them, as I wasn't able to before. Slow internet connection, I think. Anyway, life is crazy, so time for some hypno flashcard therapy! :-)