Thursday, December 30, 2010

Year Ending Realizations

This time of year brings up many emotions as time is spent with friends and family, which can be good or bad depending on your friends and family.  This time of the year is also a time of reflection about the previous year, the good the bad and the ugly.  2010 was a great year for me with the big highlights being: marriage, graduation, and a new job.  Those are very big events given the current economic and political situation.  Times-are-a-changin and who knows what that means.  Also with this reflection comes the things that motivate me such as problems that I didnt solve or struggles that werent overcome throughout the year.  For these reflections lead me to try harder and something different in the upcoming year.
One thing I struggled with this year with family and friends was feeling empathy for some of the complaints and problems that were expressed.  Sad truth is not all people are fortunate enough to have some of the problems that others have.  Meaning the government taxing me, or gays in the military for people who are not gay and are not in the military have absolutely nothing on the people that are out here with no place to stay, nothing to eat, no place to feel safe, and no one to love them.  This time of the year can be devestating for these people.  These are the people that I feel empathy for so much so that I want to do all I can do to help people overcome that, taxes? who really gives a shit...those are fortunate problems when you cannot get a job because of one or two mistakes in life.  People are still people, taxes are paper.  Now I am not saying tax me cause I don't care about money, but I am at a point that I don't feel any sympathy for your problem with the way things are handled in government or about the couple of pounds you are trying to lose or the grades you didnt get or the money mispent. Everybody has their hangups and what not, I complain when the Yanks don't sign Cliff Lee, but in the world I live in there are people starving, going homeless and being abused.   
What I realized is that I am very fortunate in many ways and probably more that I am unaware of.  To me, if I don't do something with that or give back to that, then I am a fucking idiot as I didnt do much but be born in one place versus another.  I don't take this for granted.  I was born American, white, and from a strong working class family, in this society I have many advantages that others do not.  I didnt choose this or do anything to earn it and yes I had my drug struggles and anger, stealing, cheating and lying stuff going on but it doesnt compare to growing up without parents or without food.  If that was me I would have made similar choices and be in similar situations that alot of people are in.  If I can even in the simplest of ways help the next person then I am not wasting space on this earth. 
Everybody needs to complain and everyone gets angry about stuff sometimes but if all was said and done and today you would be taken away from here, did you do all you wanted to do, did you live the way you would want to be remembered.  These are things I ask myself on the days when the clouds are very dark.  I have nothing to complain about in terms of the REAL world where people are dying and starving and we don't want to provide healthcare or tax money to help people in need.  I don't get that, I see someone in pain and I want to help them out, just part of being a human.  So help the next person, pay it foward, be kind to someone who has wronged you, take interest in someone that wanders alone, we have opportunities everyday to give back what has been given to us, the ability to live and breath and if you are reading this be freaking wealthy enough to have a computer and smart enough to operate the internet and read.  There are people who have none of this.  Make 2011 a better year....

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Fake Pot Gets A Ban


I am sure many people are aware of the "legal weed" substance that was popping up everywhere around the country and leading to many hospital visits by people that had used it, but in cased you missed it, here is a little info because thankfully the DEA used its emergency powers to shut it down.  The DEA has banned K2 and Other “Fake Pot” Products.  The reasons for this becomming an issue was that it was a legal substance that mimics the effects of marijuana.  Although I don't know much about the addictive properities of this chemical, I do know that many people were getting sick and there were even some reported deaths like 19-year-old Dominique Darrell Tate who died due to use of K2. 
K2 is a mixture of herbs and spices which is then sprayed with a chemical agent similar to marijuana that makes people high. People who smoke the synthetic herbal concoction claim it has 10 times the potency of pot.  K2 is linked to hallucinations, higher heart rate, loss of consciousness, paranoia, hallucinations, and psychotic episodes.  The agency and the Department of Health and Human Services are still trying to determine whether the chemicals should be permanently added to the federal list of controlled substances, considered unsafe, highly abused and without medical use.

Most of the hospital visits include effects such as a psychotic state of mind that can get you involuntarily placed in a psychiatric hospital where you are either drugged or electroshocked into submission.  Pharmacudical companies have been looking for ways to produce similar feelings that THC would give you but without the illegal aspect of the cannabis plant and its lovely THC chemical which is actually what gets you high.  "Even the modern father of synthetic grass, drug researcher, John Huffman, warns of the dangers of fake weed. Dr. Huffman has made it very clear that the research papers he published contain absolutely no evidence or information to show fake weed is safe to use. He compares using fake weed as deadly as playing Russian roulette and not to mess with it."  This is also the first time the DEA has used its emergency powers to stop the use of something since MDMA or ecstasy leaked out of the psychiatry field for recreational use.  As of today the "fake pot" has been placed in the same category as heroin.
This K2 compound was first created in the mid-1990s in the lab of organic chemist John W. Huffman of Clemson University, who studies cannabinoid receptors. He's not sure how the recipe for what is named JWH-018 (his initials) got picked up, but he did publish details on a series of compounds including JWH-018 in a book chapter. Even before that book came out, he recalls learning that in China and Korea people were selling the compound as a plant growth stimulant.  As for where it was first smoked or used as a recreational drug, Huffman thinks perhaps somewhere in Europe. "Apparently somebody picked it up, I think in Europe, on the idea of doping this incense mixture with the compound and smoking it," Huffman told LiveScience. "You can get very high on it. It's about 10 times more active than THC," the active ingredient in marijuana.  From a chemist's perspective, that means K2 has an affinity for the cannabinoid brain receptor (CB1) that's about 10 times greater than THC. For the less chemically inclined, it means you can smoke a lot less K2 to get just as high. The compound works on the brain in the same way as marijuana's active ingredient THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol. Both compounds bind to the CB1 receptors, which primarily affect the central nervous system. JWH-018 also binds to the peripheral brain (CB2) receptors, which are involved in the immune system, Huffman said. Since JWH-018 or K2 acts like marijuana, you'd expect to see the same effects, including sleepiness, relaxation, reduced blood pressure, and at high doses, hallucinations and delusions. While some patients between the ages of 14 and 21 were showing up with hallucinations, other symptoms, such as increased agitation and elevated blood pressure and heart rates, didn't match up with marijuana. Further testing is needed, but the symptoms, such as fast heart beat, dangerously elevated blood pressure, pale skin and vomiting suggest that K2 is affecting the cardiovascular system of users. It also is believed to affect the central nervous system, causing severe, potentially life-threatening hallucinations and, in some cases, seizures.  In addition to the compound being made without strict quality control or any regulation, as far as anyone knows, the compound itself has never been tested on humans. And when it was tested on mice, Huffman said, the animals were euthanized at the end of the experiment, so scientists don't even know how it affects mice long-term. "And mice are not humans," Huffman said.

As long as people want to alter their consciousness, they will find a way to do it....

Monday, December 20, 2010

No Excuses

"The person who really wants to do something finds a way; the other person finds an excuse."

This quote has been floating around in my head for the past few weeks and it is something that I put up in my office so that I can see it everyday and be reminded because sometimes it seems that all there is are excuses to why something cannot be done, or why this can't happen right now and to me it can get very frustrating because I know there is a way to get things done and help people but not everybody thinks and acts like me.  There are alot of lazy and selfish people out there and for that reason it is very easy to make an excuse but I won't and don't make that excuse, a barrier, not an excuse.  The barrier can be taken down but excuses take you down.  The way the world treats some people leaves them feeling that these barriers are indeed excuses and facts of the matter but from what I see, if there is a will then there is most definitely a way to do things it might take more work and not everybody is willing to do that but for sure when people do not have food on the table or warmth in their homes they will do just about anything to survive, there are no excuses then.   

William Arthur Ward said that "It is wise to direct your anger towards problems - not people, to focus your energies on answers - not excuses."  I am a solution thinker and have been for as long as I have been sober, of course there are bad days where I see more problems than solutions, but more good than bad by far.  In my profession it seems that there are very few people who think in terms of solutions as it seems that people burn out very quickly and find it easy to be negative and think in terms of excuses to why this cannot happen.  Luckily I have a boss and people in my life that also think in terms of solutions to keep me motivated even when certain areas can seem so hopeless.  Hopelessness pisses me off because I have been there and today, I cannot believe that I felt that way at one time, it is amazing how much chemicals can change the way a person thinks, feels, and views the world.  I don't allow the word can't in my conversations as it is a major pet peeve and to me says alot about a person, how they feel, think, and ultimately how they will act.  A survivor finds a way...period. 

Benjamin Franklin said that "He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else."  I agree with that statement through and through.  People that make excuses come across very ungrateful and sad.  There is a movie about the man that sawed his own arm off in order to survive...he could have used plenty of excuses but thought in terms of solutions in order to live on and I can't get up and go for a run this morning, or I can't work some overtime this week, or I cannot go the extra mile for someone who is struggling to do it themselves....yeah right.  I am capable of just about anything and if I am willing to work at it I will find a way.  I stopped several addictions to several powerful chemicals, I changed my whole entire lifestyle, I chased my dream even with the many odds against me and now I am living that dream with more letters next to my name than I can count and I say all this because I am not the brightest bulb or the most gifted but I didn't make any excuses for the way that my life goes because I have a certain amount of control over what I do, say, think, feel, and act and because I wanted me dream to happen- I found a way to make it happen and I am getting very good at it too.  Because I don't make excuses I can find a way to help not just myself but others.  Every vice has its excuse ready, whether that vice be laziness, chemical addictions, lust, greed, hate, anger, or envy.

Edward Murrow stated that "Difficulty is the excuse history never accepts."  I am damn sure not going to live in excuse or regret and I hope that you do not only live once....

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Fighter

Growing up in the Northeast in the late 80's early 90's it was almost impossible not to have heard of the great "Irish Micky Ward".  I remember watching the fights that he had with Arturo Gatti and how amazing the tenacity this fighter had.  When I got to Graduate school one of the first things that we did in class was watch an HBO documentary about Dicky Eklund and his crack addiction in Lowell, Massachusetts.  Add those two peices of information to the fact that I love boxing movies, as they have always been some of the best, and you get the picture of how much I was looking foward to seeing this movie.  After seeing it I have to say that it is my alltime favorite boxing movie.  I liked it more than the Raging Bull, Rocky movies, When we were Kings, Million Dollar Baby, and Somebody up There likes Me.  The fighter had it all for me as a uniquely inspiring drama that is based on real life events, which always add to the power of the punch.  Most people know the story and for those that don't it is just absolute madness and inspiration.  I know it just came out so I wont say to much other than Christian Bale acted one of the best parts I have ever seen in any movie period.  The Fighter had addiction, family dynamics, sybling rivalry, relationships, pride, and boxing thrown into a bucket and directed beautifully into an epic story that was truely gritty and moving.  By the time the fights happen people in the audience were clapping for all someone can take and overcome.  I think we all feel that or at least the people I run with.  We all deal with so much and keep fighting for ourselves and for our loved ones and sometimes there is pain and tragedy and other times there is happiness and joy, it is what you make it.  I related alot to Dicky and his struggle with addiction and Christian Bale was just dead on, I have not seen a more realistic depiction of all the ups and downs in one character...I could have kept watching more.  Marky Mark was ok, but as the main character he is not the focus of this movie which is due to the excellent direction of David Russell (3 kings, I heart Huckabees).  I didnt know Amy Adams could act like this as well and whoever was playing his mother I mean lights out.  If this wasnt a movie you were going to see, I suggest you do, downright amazing.  Not only is it my new favorite boxing movie of all time it is also, so far for 2010, my favorite with Inception and the Social Network way behind.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Love and Other Drugs

I am not one for chick flicks due to their unoriginal formula of boy meets girl, they fall in love, something bad happens that brings them apart and  then the inevitable bullshit speech or dramatic moment when they come together again.  That stuff isn't real unless you are completely attention starved or overly dramatic.  I did however enjoy this movie despite the predictable story line because there are several other things going on in this movie that actually are in fact real. 

One being that Anne Hathaway spends more than half the movie with her boobs out, any guy can enjoy that.  They didn't leave out views for the girls as the Bubble Boy spends the same amount of time with his ass and abs out....a little something extra for both parties involved.  Two, it deals with some real issues.  I went mainly for my wife but I was interested of course in the Drugs portion of the title.  The drugs portion gives a very accurate portrayal of how fucked up our medical system is in the United States.  There is great depth on insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies, which as someone who has had a pain in the ass dealing with them for years now, enjoy seeing brought to a bigger more popular light...too bad for the Rated R or maybe more ignorant people would get to see this movie and the sad and scary fact that people in almost every other country have a better health care system then ours.  Our system is going to get somewhat better thanks to Mr. Obama, and I saw my first signs of this when the insurance company sent me a nice letter telling just what Barack did for me and a nice check due to his new health care legislation, so for only the second time in my life, both with this President, I have had a direct positive effect in my life from what they did, so thank you Mr. President. 

Many people will also debate whether or not love is an actually drug but in reality it is.  There is a chemical in the brain called Oxytocin (the love chemical) that stimulates these feelings of excitement and euphoria that romantic love brings.  As this is rewarding to the brain just like drugs, alcohol, or something pleasurable that you enjoy like a big payday or chocolate cake the brain then craves this rewarding feeling and people become addicted to love.  When people take MRI's and have images displayed of their lovers and sweethearts the part of the brain that lights up the strongest was that associated with rewards and pleasure, a finding not nearly as poetic as romantics would have thought. It turns out that, to the brain, love is just another reward, much like chocolate or money, or like a drug to an addict. This brain system gets used every time you want something.  I experienced romantic love many times but it wasn't real beyond the romantic part and because the romantic part was then gone, the fighting began like an addict without their fix.  People start cheating looking for this feeling, for the Oxytocin to get released again in their brain's reward center.  Today thankfully I don't depend on outside things for my own happiness as it comes from something inside me instead.  Yes that chemical gets released in my brain when I am passionate with my wife, but realistically, I treat her the same whether that chemical is present or not, there are not the extreme highs or lows that come with love addiction.  As there is much of this in the news with people like Tiger Woods going to Love Rehab that part can be tricky.  I think someone can have deep emotional wounds where they seek the love and attention of people that are horrible for them, yes, but someone that is having sex out of entitlement then saying love or sex addiction when they get caught is a little different.  If Tiger, was to say relapse and start shagging all types of women again, then I would buy his particular case but having met nymphomaniacs in real life, these are people that cannot function without sex and will put themselves in very unsafe situations just for that feeling.  Love can be addiction and most certainly it is a drug.  In my opinion it is the best drug and can be the safest and most enduring of all if used properly--cannot abuse love. 

The movie portrays the other sad fact of while as Robin Williams says "There is a pill that will make you harder than Chinese algebra" they still don't have cures from horrible illnesses such as cancer or as depicted in this movie, Parkinson's disease.  As these two actor's have excellent chemistry onscreen, which is again rare for chick flicks, you can feel the struggle when dealing with these REAL life complications.  For me this leads back to what is important in life and for me it's happiness in moments that I have with my wife, friends and family it is not money or things.  I am not happy all of the time because I don't believe a person can be, but when those moments are there I truly enjoy them, embrace them, and now that I don't use chemicals I can remember them.  When you are dealing with any long term illness and just as in life, it is the moments that make it all worth it.  That is alot to come out of a chick flick and if none of that interests you, see it for the boobage.