Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Arm Injury Update

Well, I managed to find an orthopedic surgeon to look at my arm last Friday. He said that yeah, I tore some of the muscle, but since much of it is still intact, it should heal. He told me to keep it iced and elevated and he gave me a prescription for a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory for some reason. Then he told me to come back in two weeks at which point if the arm didn't look at least somewhat better he'd start me on a course of physical therapy. So, that's something. And though it still looks a bit gnarly and indented, it doesn't really hurt anymore (unless I really poke at it or try to lift a car). I just picked up the prescription for the anti-inflammatory pills from the Duane Reade near work, popped one, and it's making me feel floaty and good. Unexpected bonus. But now a little googling has revealed that possible side effects include stomach bleeding. Woo hoo. Modern medicine is dumb.

In other news, I was feeling a bit bummed out about the whole arm-injury thing and just sort of blah about life in general so I decided on a spur-of-the-moment basis to join a small group of friends and go on an Ayahuasca journey upstate over the weekend.

For those who don't know, Ayahuasca is a traditional Amazonian shamanic plant-medicine used to heal illnesses physical, mental, emotional and spiritual, and its reputation as the strongest psychedelic/entheogen in the world is well deserved. The active compound it contains, Dimethyl Tryptamine (DMT), is actually produced in trace amounts in the human body by the pineal gland in the brain, and is supposedly released at certain key moments of your life: the point when your soul "enters" your body as a new human (which, by the way, does not occur at conception), during sex, whenever you get abducted by aliens, when you die, and the first time you eat a bacon cheeseburger.

By itself, DMT cannot be administered orally, as digestion breaks it down into much less interesting molecules. So the ayahuasca preparation also includes a plant that contains harmine/harmaline, a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) which prevents the breakdown of the DMT which can then pass into your bloodstream intact. When modern scientific "experts" asked native Amazonians how they were able to determine which two specific plants, out of the tens of thousands in their local biota would combine to produce the remarkable end result, they apparently said something like: "the mushrooms told us."

Drinking ayahuasca is unpleasant for most people. But most people are wimps. I am not a wimp. I don't mind bitter sour horrible gook. Until I'm puking up buckets of it.

And that's one of the main things you have to know about ayahuasca: it is a strong purgative. It reaches into every fiber of your being, down to the level of your very soul, grabs onto the impurities and forces you to expel them through either the beginning of your digestive tract or the end of it. On top of that, it renders you shakey and dizzy and barely able to speak or stand, much less walk.

It is not a party drug.

All your senses are sharpened, but you spend most of the typically 6 to 8 hour trip just lying motionless until struggling to crawl a few feet in the grass to hurl. I gotta say, the ayahuasca may be nasty to drink, but it's even less pleasant coming back up violently while your sense of taste is elevated. As for the occasional need to shit, well... the closer the toilet the better. Some people even do these "rituals" wearing Depends undergarments.

Of course, most of the time you're lying motionless, you're having a pretty intense mental/spiritual experience, and supposedly, the more you let go and just let the brew clean you out, the more amazing the visionary experience can be, as the plant intelligence gets to work with you on higher and higher levels of being.

The whole thing seems pretty geared toward crushing your ego. It automatically reduces you to the level of a newborn baby, puking and pooping and unable (or barely able) to walk or talk, which is obviously humbling and comically frustrating for the typical thinking adult, but the rewards can be as intense as the ordeal is difficult. And I can say that this was completely true for me personally. Modern medicine: feel good now, feel crappy later. Shamanic medicine: feel crappy now, feel good later.

The most interesting part of my experience was the impression of being "scanned" -- having some kind of energetic intelligence systematically examine and evaluate every part of my personal, um, energy matrix. Maybe that's how it knew what I should puke up later. Hah.

I was also involved in a friendly dialogue which gave me little bits of advice here and there. Nothing too earth-shattering, but definitely helpful. I was hoping to really zone out at some point and go into a completely other dimension (a fairly common ayahuasca experience) maybe meet the bio-mechanical elves who would dance their little dance and then take me to meet the all-knowing Turnip King, but there were external factors that prevented this.

You see, given the fairly harsh nature of the experience, it is traditional to do it in a very controlled, very serene nurturing setting. You do it after nightfall, under the stars in the jungle surrounded by nature and warmth and quiet, with supportive expert guides to help you in a pinch.

We, however, went to... Camp D.

[Explanation of the Camp D. experience coming soon.]

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I don't have time for this shit

Greetings from the Mount Sinai Hospital emergency room. I'm just waiting for a doctor to come look at my arm. Last night, I was "doored" while riding my bicycle home from work. Coming up 10th avenue, I passed by a cab that was letting two passengers out. The door on the sidewalk side of the cab opened, so I figured, "Good... they're getting out on the safe side like they're supposed to and I'm clear to keep going." But just as I was about to pass, the door on the traffic side of the cab flew open with no time for me to react and I simply smashed into it.

The idiot got out and asked if I was okay. I was a bit dazed and infuriated and suddenly too hopped up on adrenaline to realize how much my right arm hurt and just said, "Yeah I'm fine" with an accompanying withering scowl. But my right bicep had borne most of the brunt of the impact, hitting the top edge of the open taxicab door, hard. Once I got home, I noticed that it hurt like a motherfucker, and that I couldn't move it much or use it to lift anything without severe pain. So I rolled up my sleeve to examine it and saw something I've never seen before, on my body or anyone else's... The skin wasn't broken, but there was this weird-looking indentation in my bicep at the point of impact. It looks and feels like I partially tore the muscle. Which could conceivably require surgery to correct.

And now, even though I have health benefits, I'm running headlong into medical system bureaucratic red-tape and runaround nonsense.

It's later. I'm home now.

The Hospital made me get some pointless x-rays. And they were all, "Well, the x-rays look fine" and I was like, "no shit assholes! I could've told you that they'd come out looking fine, because I can tell that there's nothing wrong with my arm bones. It's the MUSCLE that's fucked up, and everyone knows that soft tissue doesn't show up on bloody x-rays!" It was maddening. But, you know me... I don't like yelling at people who are at least attempting to help me, even if totally incompetently. They were just following SOP and even though I really needed to be looked at by an Orthopedic Surgeon, they couldn't even ask one to come down unless I had first gotten x-rayed. Which also has to do with properly milking my insurance plan. I'm surprised they didn't order an MRI, a CAT scan, a PET scan and a colonoscopy.

Actually, an MRI might've been slightly useful, as it does resolve soft tissue to a certain degree.

Anyway, even after getting the x-rays taken, they couldn't convince an orthopod to come down and look at me. But they did give me a Percoset (and a prescription for same) and the phone number of an orthopedic surgeon affiliated with Mount Sinai. By then it was too late to reach anyone in his office to make an appointment, and also by then, my coworkers (God bless 'em) had come up with a list of much better specialists to go see. So I'll call tomorrow and set up an appointment to get looked at for reals and hopefully this can happen sooner than later. A good specialist in high demand -- who knows how long it'll be before he can squeeze me in? I just hope I can book the appointment before my arm heals like this permanently, leaving me with diminished use of it (not to mention slightly deformed).

Though, even if that happens, I'm still gonna ride my bike everywhere.

Bikes rule!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I'm feelin' a little punchy today

I'm sure turducken tastes good and all, especially deep-fried in a giant vat of bacon grease like they do it in the fat states, but I simply cannot abide a foodstuff with the word "turd" in its name.

Though, I must admit I do seem to have a morbid fascination with turduckens and spend a goodly amount of my day wondering about things like: If you successfully shove a turducken into another turducken, could you destroy the universe? Or just the red states? I guess we won't find out until next spring when the large hadron collider comes back on line.

Top 10 Points of Comparison

Between the Republican Party and the Third Reich (just off the top of my head)...

1. Masters of the Big Lie

2. Scapegoating

3. Responsible for the deaths of large numbers of innocent people

4. Strong adherence to false beliefs

5. Willingness to blindly follow incompetent leadership

6. Causing economic ruin of their own nations

7. Leaving behind a massive rift in their own societies (Berlin Wall, red/blue divide)

8. Claiming to be on a mission to improve the world

9. Rigid control of media

10. Prescott Bush (Dubya's grandfather) (Okay, not really a point of comparison, but simply a direct link.)

11. Racism

12. Oops. I meant to stop at 10.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


I've been meaning to start up a regular yoga practice of some kind for a while now. Like, 10 years. Yesterday, I finally took the plunge. Bikram. The hot yoga.

At first the heat felt kinda good. A somewhat humid 105 degrees. And the first few postures didn't seem too terribly strenuous. The guy teaching the class called out instructions peppered with a continual rapid-fire stream of little tips and motivations and information about the benefits of the postures, etc., and though this made him sound like some kind of crazed new-age county-fair auctioneer, it was actually pretty helpful and inspiring. I thought: "90 minutes of this? No problem."

After maybe an hour, I felt like I was being ass-raped by Satan.

I was pouring more sweat from every square inch of the surface of my body than I thought possible, and gradually I could feel the blood-vessels in my extremities constricting and my brain shutting down. Ah... severe dehydration. I had brought a decent-sized (or so I thought) container of water with me (they also sell large bottles of smart water), but I'd finished all of it and there was still plenty of class to go. And they don't let you leave the hot room under any but emergency situations. I wasn't sure if my situation qualified as an emergency, but that's probably only because my mind had ceased functioning. So I just sat down on my sweat-soaked towel. Then I curled up into fetal position on my side for a bit, trying to see if I could get some feeling back into my strangely tingling arms and legs. And face.

Lying down wasn't so unusual. Looking around, almost everybody in the class had to stop at one point or another. But they all still had water left to drink. So they weren't necessarily dealing with dehydration, but rather were just a bit overcome by the heat and the exertion. In my case, the heat and exertion weren't the problem. I had simply underestimated how much water I'd need to drink, didn't bring enough, and now I was dying. But the crazed auctioneer thought I was just slacking and so encouraged me to push myself. I did what I could, but it's not easy to do the postures on numb legs. But since my brain had gone numb too, I didn't really care.

After the class, I somehow managed to drag myself into the men's locker room. I went to the bathroom, and drank some tap water from the sink. It was just enough to return a tiny amount of limb and brain function, such that I could shower and put my street clothes back on. On my way out, I bought one of the smart waters and drank the entire liter down in one go. I immediately felt completely better. Suddenly I could think and walk and speak again like a normal human.

But I was a bit wobbly and cold on my bike ride home.

And today, I'm a bit achey, though not as bad as I feared I might be.

I'm not going to a class today. Still thirsty from yesterday's class. But I'll go tomorrow after work. And I'll buy two liters of smart water to bring into it with me. Maybe three.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Time for a Change

Conservatives who run for office like to invoke moral heroes of the past, specifically the Founding Fathers of the United States, and, you know, Jesus. Somehow, they don't see any hypocrisy in the fact that these heroes were all flaming liberals of the very highest order. Revolutionaries in fact. Invoking them appeals to conservative voters' desire for comforting familiarity, (even as they miss the point of what they find comfortingly familiar).

Despite the shortcomings of Jonathan Haidt's lecture (and an article of his that my friend Chris recommended), it is largely thanks to them that I am reminded of the need to find common ground with people whose views I find difficult to accept, or even understand. Conservatives. People who strongly resist change (despite the fact that change is the only constant).

Haidt starts his lecture pointing out that "openness to new experience" is a psychological trait, and some people rate highly in it, and others less so. Those who rate highly tend to vote liberal, and those less so tend to vote conservative. So it's no wonder that the conservative Republican base got so excited by Sarah Palin. McCain is a slightly "new" experience for some of them, and Obama is obviously shockingly new for them, whereas Palin is almost exactly like a female version of who we already have in the White House. Ah... comforting. Familiar. And even though it doesn't take a genius to see that the Republican leadership is systematically destroying the country, conservatives fear change so much that they would have more of the same despite the fact that "staying the course," sets the stage for truly calamitous changes later: full-scale socio-ecomic upheaval, etc. Their inclination to self-delude in service to their comfort-zone is so strong that they've actually tried to convince themselves that the country is going down the tubes because of the liberals in Congress, who, after all, have had a slim majority for the last two years (as if the manifold horrors and lies and outrages of the last 8 years all occured in these last 2, and somehow originated in the Capitol Building instead of the White House).

Unfortunately, change really IS the only constant and denying or putting it off only causes it to be more painful when it finally does happen.. The skill is in knowing when to push for it, when to simply let it happen, and when to push back a little, perhaps to redirect it. Nothing you do can stop it though. Might as well try to prevent your children from growing up. Oh sure, you can keep insisting that there's a Santa Claus, well into their teens. Or you can try to shield them from ever learning about human sexuality or anything else that might lead to a loss of innocence. But one day, your daughter is gonna get her period. And little Billy, well, sure he might be a bit slow, but even he's gonna figure out that Santa was really Dad all along.

In our case, as Obama has stated repeatedly, we are desperate for change. Wholesale, comprehensive, cleansing, corrective change. The Karl Rove / Dick Cheney / Monkey Boy administration has been like an enormous brain tumor slowly killing the United States while inducing disturbing personality alterations and interfering with mental faculties and overall competence. The change we need is nothing less than life-saving brain-surgery for an entire country. But you know how it is... people are afraid of hospitals/doctors/surgery. And that's understandable. Surgery is a bit scary. So even though it makes no sense, there are people who would prefer to see how the brain-tumor "plays out," rather than risk cutting open our head and removing it. But if we leave it in place (and vote for more Republicans) it will definitely kill us. If we vote to remove the tumor, (enter Dr. Obama) we're not sure what the outcome of the surgery will be. Though he seems highly intelligent and highly skilled, we don't know this doctor so well. Unless you're very "zen," uncertainty isn't easy. No matter what happens with the surgery, we can assume that the recovery process won't be easy either. But at least we won't have a terminal fucking brain tumor anymore!


One last thing and then I'm going to sleep...

As difficult as it is for me to fathom how people can take their group cohesion and loyalty (positive traits) and blindly apply them to such obvious liars and thieves as Cheney/Bush, I have to say, the problem isn't the conservative voters. It's the liars and thieves. The Republican party. If the Republican leaders actually lived and governed according to the moral values they claim to hold dear (the values their supporters certainly DO hold dear) then we would not have been lied to about Iraq, because if you're loyal to your group, you don't lie to them. And we wouldn't be in the absolutely sickening financial disaster we're experiencing. Would actual fiscal conservatives ever have allowed conditions to persist that could lead to the unmitigated debacles in the home-loan industry, at AIG, Lehmann Bros., Merrill Lynch? I just found out that my bank might be up for sale (Washington Mutual). I'm sorry, but the people that conservatives vote for don't actually have conservative morals. For them to have conservative morals, they'd have to have morals.

Good night.

Jonathan Haidt TED Talk

This video explains a lot. But it doesn't go far enough. Gravesian Spiral Dynamics theory is more comprehensive. Still, this is definitely worth watching, especially with the election coming up so soon...

Friday, September 12, 2008

If McCain Wins

If John McCain becomes the next president of the United States, whether through voter fraud, rigged voting machines, cops barring black people from entering the polls, or whatever nefarious means, then here is my timeline of the future...

January 20, 2009 -- 12 noon: John McCain sworn in as the 44th President of the United States of America.

January 20, 2009 -- 12:01 PM: John McCain assassinated. Suspect is caught and declared to be an Islamic Fundamentalist, but is in actuality a Republican operative.

January 20, 2009 -- 12:03 PM: Sarah Palin sworn in as the 45th President of the United States of America.

Over the course of her first year in office, the US launches unprovoked military strikes on: Pakistan, Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, Syria, Cuba, France, the international space station, and the sun.

The ideological split of the populace of the United States increases sharply. Hostilities flare up. All our armed forces including the National Guard, all reserve units and all private mercenary forces are spread too thin around the world to intervene domestically and local police forces are overmatched. Seeking a better life for their children, people of differing views relocate in order to live with folks they find more agreeable, until North America effectively turns into this:

(remember that?)

2010: Sarah Palin agrees to let certain areas officially secede (the ones with all the gays, blacks, hebrews and what she calls "book-readin' types.") The economy of Canada skyrockets, based on the enormous infusion of intelligent, creative talent and innovative thinking that immediately takes place.

February 2011: The only thriving industries left in Jesusland are: weapons manufacture, factory-pig-farming, NASCAR, Fox-Propaganda, tobacco, beer and privatized prisons.

April 2011: Sarah Palin announces a plan to create a million new jobs constructing a 50-foot thick, 100-foot high, 6000-mile long concrete wall on the border between Jesusland and Canada. She will claim that this is a security measure to protect all the faithful citizens of Jesusland from the filthy heathen terrorists of Canada, and it will be overwhelmingly supported. In truth, it is to prevent Jesusland's slaves and women from escaping.

June 2011: NASCAR, factory farming, Fox and the prison-industrial complex partner to create "Deathrace" and "Soylent Green". Starving Jesuslanders are killed and secretly fed to other Jesuslanders in the most entertaining way available.

2012: Despite the forced teen-pregnancy policy, the population of Jesusland continues to dwindle. Nevertheless, its consumption of fossil fuels keeps increasing. Global climate change effects turn much of the heartland, what had previously been the breadbasket of the world, into lifeless dustbowl. Coastal cities drown. Wildfires scorch the southland. Mass starvation, riots, soylent green!

Meanwhile, to the north, on the Canadian side of the "Freedom Wall"...

Every citizen receives free comprehensive health care and free education up to any level one wishes to pursue. Marijuana is legalized, and becomes an enormous source of revenue for the federal government. Crime is virtually non-existent. Canada quickly achieves the highest standard of living in the world.

2010: Global climate change effects alter much of Canada's coastline, but turn vast areas of previously uninhabitable frozen wasteland into lush temperate zones. Canada begins constructing the world's first completely self-contained carbon-neutral domed city above the arctic circle. The Canadian solar and wind-power industries thrive. The Canadian electric car industry is second-to-none. Canada dominates pop-culture in music, film, TV, fashion, publishing, etc. etc.

2011: Using some of Canada's vast wealth, the entire Canadian side of the "Freedom Wall" is covered in a solar powered ultra-hi-resolution LED display. A trompe l'oeil image of an imense unspoiled wilderness is created to make it seem as if Jesusland doesn't even exist. A yearly design competition gives artists from around the world a chance to create something for the "world's biggest canvas" and the winning entry will run for a month before the usual landscape image returns.

2012: Canada is a shining beacon of hope and people flock there from every corner of the globe. Except of course, from Jesusland. The few who make the attempt to either climb over or tunnel under the wall, are killed immediately and all record of their existence is expunged by the Government of Jesusland. Fox never reports these incidents.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

New Camera

Just got me a Sony DSC W-200. Consumer Reports liked it. I know they ain't exactly photography experts, but they ranked this particular camera way high, said it took nifty shots in low light (which is something I like to do) and I found a great deal on a used one (they don't make new ones of this model anymore).

It may be just a nuthin' little point-and-shoot, but here's what it did when I aimed it at the stuff I can see from my roof...

Friday, September 5, 2008

Origin of the Republican Playbook

"Why of course the people don't want war. Why should some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally the common people don't want war ... That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."
--Hermann Goering (1893-1946) Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe, President of the Reichstag, Prime Minister of Prussia and, as Hitler's designated successor, the number 2 man in the Third Reich. Quoted on April 18, 1946 at the Nuremberg Trials.