Saturday, November 18, 2017

i think i can, i think i can

Visiting my cousin last night, I was caught off guard and asked if I wanted to read to their year and a half old daughter.  Ok, I have to admit, I was happy to give it a shot.  I have noticed that just smiling at her hasn't won me a whole lot of trust or favor.  She still looks at me with apprehension.  I'm nervous about these things though.  I don't know if I can read a children's book right, and babies can be pretty judgmental.

I joke, but I was nervous about it.  In order to read in proper entertaining fashion while keeping track of what she was doing required my full attention, to such an extent that it felt like being on autopilot.  I had nothing to spare for my precious default mode network.  I realized that this itself makes me very nervous.  It wasn't really just that I was afraid of being judged, but that without the familiar hypervigilance of ego, I wasn't entirely sure what I'd do.  Hopefully, I'd just read to her like a normal human being, but with this human brain thing, you never really know.

So, it was a little shocking to discover that I pretty much just read to her like a normal human being.  She seemed content, and I wasn't sure what I was supposed to do when we got to the end of the book, so I read her a second book.  At one point, I noticed that she was distracted and kept looking up, so wondering what she keeps looking at, I realize there's her whole family watching us.


 I think they were a little shocked too.


Monday, November 13, 2017

neuroplastika

All these things I do in the hopes of squeezing what I can from this grey matter, I do in realizing that I am already underwater.  I wouldn't worry about my coffee consumption, if this were actually working out for me.  Addiction is less than ideal, as I'd put it, but who in their right mind worries about everything being ideal?  Yeah, I'm not really in my right mind.  I'm just doing whatever I can think of in my latest push towards remedying that.

At the very least, my brain has was way too many adenosine receptors.  Coffee works by blocking these, so nature responds by growing more, to compensate.  An impressive trick, but it tends to ruin everything.  The more of an addict we are, the more of these extra receptors we have, desperately needing to be blocked.  I've read that it takes months for those to scale back to normal, once they're no longer swimming in all that coffee.

While it may seem a contradiction, it's in realizing just how much caffeine sometimes helps that I've realized how much it might be undermining me.  My tolerance is so high that other times, it just does nothing.  If it all comes down to these receptors, that drinking coffee can help so much, then not having them in such abundance should also be a huge help.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

novelty seeking

Had dinner with family the other night, and at one point began to explain my caffeine withdrawal.  No, I'm not giving up coffee.  I'm just giving up my addiction to it.  I find it odd that this is so difficult for others to understand and yet, maybe I wouldn't have understood myself, a few years ago.  It has a lot to do with what I've learned regarding addiction, particular as it pertains to stimulants and my own experiences.  It seems counter intuitive and yet now, it just makes perfect simple sense.

I find it disappointing when others act confused by things that make perfect simple sense to me.  I suppose that really, I'm confused by the things that make perfect simple sense to them, as well.  It's a different sort of confusion, but the net impact is the same.  It's alienating.  Differences in priorities, values, and ultimately outcomes and experiences.  A difference in worldview, a feeling of living in an entirely different world.  The way others think, feel, and behave is often unfamiliar to me, but whereas I've spent my life trying to understand them anyhow, there is little incentive for them to do the same for me.

I've started drinking coffee again.  All according to plan.  It's been over two weeks, the withdrawal has become negligible.  I have a schedule which involves drinking coffee twice a week, now.  I'll see how that goes.  There was an article I read a while back about the benefits of breaking up routines.  Doing mundane things differently, so that the brain doesn't stagnate into monotony and repetition.  Everything we do creates a baseline to which we adjust, and that baseline can be kind of lousy.

It's a bit like the studies showing that learning multiple languages results in greater mental acuity.  Which is the main reason I'm doing that, too.  Mixing things up compels the brain to be more active, more aware, more mindful.  Settling into patterns can be all but unavoidable and even necessary though.  It should help to switch things up on a neurochemical level to ensure that one day differs from the next, and plan my routines accordingly.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

unloquacious

There seems to be a clear line between the impulse to express my thoughts, and the impulse to socialize.  I often depend on being reactive, looking for other people's ideas so that I might feel compelled to respond.  Many of my blog entries, inspired by some podcast I've been listening to, or my political comments in response to some article, or some other commenter.


I often need to be stimulated by ideas, to move me from my asocial torpor, but lately I haven't felt much like responding to anyone about anything.  So here's my music playlist from YouTube.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

compensatory mechanisms

Addiction is an oft misused term.  Addiction is the body becoming accustomed to the presence of a drug.  When you remove the drug, it takes time to adjust physiologically, and this results in withdrawal symptoms. This does not occur just from taking the drug.  It occurs with regular use.  The more you do, the more regularly, the more your body will try to get used to it.

This also results in tolerance.  As the body compensates, in assuming the presence of the drug, the less of an impact it will have.  Common wisdom is that you need more to get the same effect, but the truth is, that never quite works as well.  The system absorbs some chemical reactions better than others, resulting in a different balance.  A diminished efficacy, as long as compensatory mechanisms are involved.

The drug becomes a blunter instrument, the more dosage is increased.  Less of what you want, and more of everything else.  The more desperate you are to feel it anyhow, the more you keep upping the dosage anyhow.  Sometimes it's necessary.  Sometimes it's dangerous.

Dr. Hart thinks the problem is ignorance, and I'm sure that he is right, to some degree.  If only people knew, not to combine sedatives, such as opiates and alcohol, he says.  Except, addicts do that because they know it's a way of pushing through tolerance.  I wonder how many would keep doing it anyhow.

Addiction is not something that happens just from taking a drug.  Opioids are especially addictive, but people often take them for weeks without becoming addicts.  Recreationally, people use all sorts of drugs intermittently.

We live with addictions all the time, and with a steady intake of the drug, they aren't necessarily a problem.  They're never really ideal, though.  It takes the brain months to return to normal, from caffeine addiction.  Not from drinking coffee at all, but from drinking 2-4 cups a day, every day, for decades.

In the US, drug overdoses are the leading cause of death now, in people under 50.  I appreciate the crusade against Big Pharma on their victims' behalf, but I've always felt blaming the dealers to be almost as misguided as blaming users.  Addiction occurs when people already have a problem.  The reason they're doing the drug every day.  That's not the effect of addiction, it's the cause.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

positive avolition

It's shocking how tired I am.  Either my daily coffee has been hiding this horrible ailment I have, or this is caffeine withdrawal.  I haven't even gone a whole day without it, yet. I'm also out of ibuprofen.  It would seem I am going to need more.

I've decided that drinking coffee every day makes terribly inefficient use of a really good stimulant.  I know that regular use of other stimulants builds tolerance and dependence, and worst of all, causes them to stop working.  I don't see why caffeine would be any different.  I need it, and yet barely feel like I'm breaking even, by drinking it every day.

I tried giving up coffee a few years ago.  I was successful, but after a few months I decided I was better off as an addict.  All or nothing.  Now, I'm not giving it up entirely.  I just want to break the addiction, so that I can enjoy it more, 2-3 times a week.

I wonder why this approach seems so unusual.  It makes sense to me, but it's taken me years to learn for myself how stimulants work, and to think of trying even coffee this way.  I've never seen anyone suggest this.  So, I wonder if my body works differently.  Maybe others don't build tolerance as quickly, or experience as much drop-off in efficacy because of it.  I don't put it past people though, doing everything wrong for millennia, without learning anything.

Other people do seem to be more impulsive than I am.  Maybe that's what makes this a more viable approach for me.  I feel lousy, but this isn't some monumental act of willpower.  I'm really good at not doing things.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

i like animals, except for people

In addition to seeking professional help, I used to go through all sorts of mental health literature, trying to understand what was wrong with me.  After a while, coming to disdain that entire approach, clustering symptoms with only loose hypotheticals, as far as what causes a given disorder.

I realize that it's complex and difficult, but without cause, these symptoms could be anything.  People placed into the same category, with entirely different disorders, responding to entirely different treatments.  Seems to me this defeats the purpose of categorization.  Might as well just stick to dealing with symptoms individually, until a more comprehensive understanding of the situation can be reached.

It's been a while since I've looked up any of it.  I'm only peripherally aware of recent developments.  Maybe I dismiss it too hastily in my frustration.  Found myself reading about Schizoid Personality Disorder again. I'd come back to that one many times, but it always felt fundamentally wrong.  Ok, so I'm not sure what it feels like to be happy, per se, but I take pleasure in all sorts of things.  I feel all sorts of things. Sorta.

This time though, I imagined a psychiatrist checking symptoms off of a list, upon getting to know me.  I can see how they might even check every single symptom, despite my personal feeling that half of them don't apply.  Communication can be misleading, and it is in part, a communication disorder - inappropriate tone or affect often produces misunderstanding.   On the other hand, psychologists will often dismiss personality disorder as almost irrelevant and treat all symptoms as depression and anxiety.

The reality is that these diagnosis don't mean a whole lot, in that they neither prove anything, nor have treatment implications.  It can also further threaten the sense of self, to think this explains everything, when it couldn't possibly.  We're still individuals, with all sorts of other variables mucking up our lives.  Still, it could help me understand why I struggle to relate to people.

In reading about it, I've often come across the sentiment that if you're "struggling to relate to people," you can't be schizoid, because a schizoid does not care.  Comments to that effect.  It's sometimes true.  Schizoid types are less likely to care or feel loneliness, but it's a spectrum, and there are other variables involved.

I've also discovered that the very officious psychiatric people have retired the diagnosis, to combine with schizotypal and move the remainder over to avoidant.  This is incredibly stupid.  It's almost inverse to schizotypal, and avoidant should really be a subset of social anxiety disorder.  Schizoid personality is distinct in their social disinterest, blunted affect and limited emotional range.

YouTube has lots of videos on the subject, with varying degrees of accuracy and relevance.  Most people telling you what their version of schizoid looks like, and this is heavily skewed towards the type of schizoid person who'd be inclined to make YouTube videos of themselves.


This one was particularly amusing.  I don't know anything about her, but what she describes is familiar.  Maybe a bit more extreme in my case.  Like the schizoid I seem to be, that's not to say I watched any of her other videos.  I don't care that much.  It occurs to me now though, that she poses a good explanation for why I post so much about politics and not science or philosophy, gaming or music.  It's politics, current events and the like, that make me angry.  That's one emotion I can feel motivated by.

Come to think of it, the one social activity I really got into was sparring, takedowns, grappling.  Hitting things, fighting with people.

Monday, October 2, 2017

good morning, america

I don't care that much about the gun control issue.  I woke up horrified this morning, but the whole debate is this convoluted swamp of insanity.  Of course, guns should be banned.  All of them.  Better yet, let's ban all weapons.  Anything that's designed to kill people, how about just outlawing, with any grey area litigated in court like anything else.  I don't really care enough to argue the point, or get into specifics, but that's roughly my stance.  A stance I'm too cynical to care about.

It's not just that we're nowhere near it.  They won't even talk about it. They've given so much ground to the right, that they bicker over whether or not there should be limits on magazine sizes.  In this case, sure, that could have saved a lot of lives, but this isn't the norm.  This is like terrorism, in that it's especially triggering, it speaks to us emotionally, in a way that the everyday violence does not.

Fifty eight people died to gun violence today.  Not counting all the other firearm suicides, homicides, and police shootings that happened today, as they do every day.   I think it adds up to at least that many. every single day in America.. and no, they can't even get limits on magazine sizes.

Anyhow, 3D printed guns are still a thing, and they keep getting better, the materials cheaper.  Their creators more creative.  It's a pathologically uphill pointless battle, in a world that's falling apart around us.  Have I mentioned that I've been kind of depressed, lately?

Deadliest Mass Shooting in US History
"There have been a total of 273 mass shootings in the United States since 2017 began 273 days ago, according to the Gun Violence Archive."

Saturday, September 30, 2017

worth articulating

There are many ways to define worth, but I like to start at the root of it, the evolutionary adaptation somehow wired into us, for tribalism, working together, an inherent need to be some sort of value.  I always feel like I need to reiterate, like all sorts of things, this would still show significant variation within a normal population.  An instinct likely more active in some than others, maybe having other dimensions to it as well.  Even at the biological root of it.

In life, we then learn to value different things.  What matters, because that's what makes sense, given what we know of the world.  What matters because that's what matters to those around us, family, friends, peers.  Those that matter to us.  To varying degrees, in different people.  All of it just factoring into the psychological equation.  What am I doing to contribute, from a work ethic to fighting with the tribe's opposition.  What value do I bring to the tribe, which for some might mean family, while for others, the entire human race, or anywhere in between.

This isn't to justify feelings of worthlessness, but to show the link between what we value, and feelings of isolation, alienation.  Something else Google will tell us, has been trending in the US.  This messes with one's sense of self worth.  It makes us vote for ridiculous leaders, and yell about our rights being violated.  Sometimes our rights really are being violated.  It would seem, sometimes it just turns us into xenophobic loones. I'd suggest that critically lacking sense of self worth even potentiates political and religious radicalization.  This is not something you want rampant in society.

The need to be of value, an imperative that exists for reasons, but when it doesn't succeed as a motivator, it just sucks.  It all just seems to play into an overarching scheme, a trajectory, not so easy to change.

Friday, September 29, 2017

the memes of america

I've been seeing lots of references to the myth of American meritocracy, lately.  The first of this recent spike being when I wrote it a few days ago, but most recently in Glamour Magazine, of all places.  Reading Glamour because a #BLM activist that I follow wrote an article for them and linked to it.


This suggests that it was a trend my unconscious mind picked up on, prior to consciously realizing it.  My own blog entry being evidence of that.  I suppose maybe that's why I'm a little skeptical, but it does seem to be something people are talking about more, lately.

As I wrote the above, it occurred to me, I can actually look that up.  According to Google Trends, there has been a recent uptick in usage of the term.  They even map it by state, where it lines up with left leaning regions showing the most.  I must have noticed before I really noticed.

I find this sort of group think phenomenon interesting.  It plays out all over social media, ideas and viewpoints catching on organically, repeated, reiterated, and built upon, often by people with no idea where it started.  This even includes me, impacted by social trends, without even realizing it.

Guess I'm not the only American to feel like an abject failure.  Turns out, a whole lot of us didn't really get a fair shot.  Least that seems to be a common sentiment, these days.  Maybe I've been depressed because my life sucks.  How am I supposed to just pretend everything is fine day after day, as I live a life that would make almost anyone miserable?

Maybe I'm just really sensitive to the mounting cultural depression that comes with decades of economic decline.  Sure, it's not quite as plausible, but it gives me something else to focus on.  A team to cheer for.  We try to look on the bright side.  Progressives might win the day, yet.  We've been told progressives have had all sorts of success before.. but wait, turns out we've been lied to about goddamn everything, and to be honest, the odds are not looking that good.  Or is that just the cognitive bias that comes with feeling that way about my own life?

I almost don't even want my injections anymore.  I feel like giving up.  Like most Americans, I thought I'd be living a life of more merit than this, and I'm kind of upset about it, but that's not really the worst of it.  It's aggravated by the loneliness of isolation, the angst of economic insecurity.  My mental health issues would just be personality quirks if not for this toxic dynamic that's consumed my whole life.  I'm just another worthless lonely poor person.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

all or nothing

Someone with a Cyrillic name liked one of my tweets earlier.  I noticed his little bio was in Russian - and that I could read it.  It was only two and a half words, but still.  That was kind of cool.  "Всё или ничего!"  I'm more of a "little bit's fine too" sort of person.  Some things just work so much better that way.  I don't know why people are such absolutists about everything.

I think if I were to be tested on my Russian, I would fail.  Before I gave up on school, I got lots of failing grades.  I wasn't engaged, I was miserable, I didn't give a fuck.  If I'd have been able to concentrate better, that might have helped.  In short, I don't seem to be очень хорошо студента.  Or something like that.  Duolingo constantly dings me for getting details wrong, but I just pretend it's congratulating me on being close enough.

The point is to keep doing it, right?  I can delve into that whole other quagmire of why I'm doing it, but that's not really the point, either.  I always think back on that MIT campus, visiting someone there, my backpack full of clothes, imagining that they were books.  I wish I'd had the chance to at least try.  I couldn't even get through high school. 

I can blame the system, or my parents, I can blame myself.  It doesn't really matter.  It's all the same thing.  Circumstances.  Sometimes I still just wish I'd perservered though.  I wish I'd understood how to do that and why it mattered.  Doing well isn't nearly as important as doing it anyhow.  The main reason I failed out of school had something to do with how I'd stopped going to all my classes.

Now, I don't know what the hell to do with myself.  Try learning a random language?  Yeah, that'll make a huge difference in my life, but whatever.

Monday, September 25, 2017

collateral damage

I keep reading about how hard it is to change minds, but I've changed my mind about all sorts of things over the years. Usually due to learning new facts and details that lead to a whole other conclusion. One thing I've changed my position on is collateral damage and it's relative ethics in relation to terrorism. I won't go into the weeds of defining terrorism, here I'm only concerned with the distinction of intentionally killing civilians, as opposed to collateral damage, defined as unintentionally killing civilians.

I used to think this was clear cut, and that comparing first degree murder to manslaughter made for a good metaphor. Accidentally killing people isn't anywhere near as bad as doing it on purpose. How can anyone possibly argue otherwise? This often strikes people as outrageous apologetics for terrorism, and sometimes it is. To suggest that all death is the same to the survivors is patently absurd, but where my views have changed has nothing to do with any sort of defense of terrorism - rather, ratcheting up condemnation of collateral damage.

Sam Harris will often make the point that he's well aware that collateral damage is horrible, yet he fails to see how it is precisely the issue of intention that makes it potentially comparable to the worst sorts of terrorism.   He trusts our government institutions and their official stories as to what's going on, whereas I no longer do.  Intention does matter a whole lot, but I no longer believe that collateral damage is necessarily unintentional.  It varies from one situation to the next, but all too often it's more equivalent to depraved indifference than manslaughter.  That's not better than premeditated murder, and in some cases, can be even worse.

Knowing that civilians will die, and dropping bombs anyhow, means that their deaths were actually intentional.  They know their actions will result in casualties and take those actions anyhow.  It doesn't matter that it wasn't their primary motivation.  That's where you have to look at the details, how likely civilians deaths were, whether there were efforts to avoid it, and was hitting their target really worth murdering innocent people over.  Killing ten or twenty people just trying to buy bread, in order to get some bad guy can be pretty damn depraved.  Possibly even worse than anything said bad guy has ever done or will do.

Do we trust that our military is being careful, trying not to get innocent people killed?  Do we even trust that they have good reasons for thinking people are dangerous bad guys that need to be bombed?  Or do we figure they don't care all that much, they do things like this all the time, on purpose, without a whole lot of concern?  Do we question their motives, their reasons for bombing anyone at all?  When you dispense with the conventional assumptions, and realize that they're often more motivated by corporate greed, and indifferent to the death they cause, yes, the US military's actions become just as bad as terrorism.

Harris also makes the argument that intention matters, because it's our best indication of what people will keep trying to do.  If it's an accident, they'll try not to let it happen again.  If it's intentional, they'll keep doing it.  What are the chances more innocent people will die to our bombs in the very near future?  Again, again, and again.

Most people making these arguments have no idea.  The mainstream media doesn't tell us what our military is doing.  Certainly not how many people they've been killing, almost every day.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

america's mythology of meritocracy

Obama is clearly a brilliant man.  Whatever criticisms I've had of him, none of it aims to question that, really.  He has also been extremely successful, at least by any measure which holds in high regard being elected and re-elected President of the US, but even that aside.  I'm sure his intelligence has helped.  Brilliant as he may be, I can see how he'd conclude that intelligence is more pivotal than it really is, likely believing it has been for him.

Of those who are less successful, then?  They don't know what they're talking about, right?  Leading them means trying to herd them in the right direction.  Not listen to them.  Certainly not let them get into power themselves.  It's cute when they try, that Bernie means well, but when it comes down to it, they need to be stopped.  Elites like himself would naturally believe that they're the ones that understand the situation, and so this is where they get their narrative.  From those they trust, not listening to those they don't, not even understanding their criticisms.

I can imagine that if I'd been more successful in life, I'd think my own merits were pretty damn important, too.  I'd end up spending more of my time with people in a similar situation.  It's not a big leap then, to conclude that if such merits are important for me and the people I know, they're important for everyone.  Ergo, those who don't succeed are, by definition, going to be lacking in the aggregate - this really only being a difference in perspective.  A measurement of variables, relative to other variables.

How much does being born into socio-economic advantage matter relative to how much ones own intelligence and other character attributes matter.  Both sides can acknowledge that it all matters.  The disagreement is in which matters so much as to almost entirely overshadow the rest.  It is a deepening striation between populists and centrists who believe that the status quo is in significant part, the product of meritocracy.  Good people succeed, bad people are weeded out, controlled, dealt with by soup kitchens and law enforcement.  These are implicit, when thinking about what's primarily involved in being successful in society.

The more successful people are, the more they're naturally motivated to believe it's been their own doing.  The more unsuccessful people there are in society, the more this is going to be questioned.  The more it's questioned, the more people realize that it's actually bullshit.  Sure, you can point to Obama as an example of how important intelligence is, but I can point to Reagan, Bush, Clinton, and of course Trump.  One in five would instead suggest that success sometimes happens in spite of intelligence.

Or put another way, other factors matter a whole lot more but those at the top have trouble understanding that.  That lack of perspective can even make brilliant people into incompetent assholes.

. .

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

ленивец

I've often noticed that when I go through a particularly dark mood, I go through all sorts of irrational thought processes.  As I come out of it, as I always do eventually, I look back with a sense of perspective and objectivity.  I can see how irrational I was being, interpreting things in awful ways, coming to even worse conclusions.

We often underestimate just how potent it can be, to be lost in the midst of delusion.  I've been wary of this my whole life, and yet, can only really see past it, from a safe distance.  What really gets me is that if my "safe distance" is really just another delusion, I'd be no more capable of realizing it, than I was of realizing the delusions of deep depression.  From the perspective of depression, feeling better seems pointless, hollow, but neither is really wrong, per se.  Just different.

There's a clear cognitive bias, to wanting to believe that it's more real, when I'm not so depressed.  A great relief in finding ways of thinking that aren't painful.  If my current state of mind involves a more pleasant brain chemistry, I'd sure like to think that it's what's real.  I'm just not sure there's much reason to conclude that's actually true.  Most people believe all sorts of crazy things, and often seem to think very little about the complex layers of causality that really drive everything.

As I finished my first cup of coffee this morning, my daily self-diagnostics were not looking good.  Going for my usual run felt out of the question.  Not because I was all that miserable, but critically unmotivated.  I know this feeling well, and it sounds a lot easier to get over than it is.  In the midst of that state, there was no getting over it.

Few hours later, I began to realize I felt all sweaty and unpleasant, and that a shower would probably be a good idea.  As I moved to do that, I figured it would probably make sense to run first, then shower.  Not to be reductive, and might have been coincidence, but sweating is a side effect of increasing cortisol levels.  A more primary function being how it factors into motivation.

So, out of the blue, I was all sweaty and motivated, and it got me moving.  Was I delusional before, thinking that I couldn't move?  Or did my endocrine system finally kick into gear the way it's supposed to?  If that is the real culprit, is it delusion to blame distorted thinking and bad feelings?  Is it delusion to blame delusion?

There are almost certainly elements of both, and the flawed thinking would not be believing in either one, but in disbelieving in the other.  A sort of delusion that seems quite common to me.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

middle path regime

I've noticed a pattern, in my own behavior, where at first, I realize that I might have a knack for something.  This inspires me to push myself harder, as it starts looking reasonable that I could be really good at it.  If I work at it.

So, I do, but my rate of progress doesn't really improve that much.  Not only am I still an awful long way from being really good at much of anything, but I still keep making all sorts of stupid beginner mistakes.  So, I push myself harder, but eventually I'm starting to overdo it, sabotaging my progress, not giving myself enough time to process, rest, recover.  I get frustrated.  I clearly just suck at this.  For some inexplicable reason, I don't feel like doing it much longer.

So, I theorize that it might be a good idea to cap my goals, my ideals, even my principles.  To push myself about a step beyond what seems to be a realistic baseline - and no more.  What seems to matter above all else is that I keep doing it, indefinitely.  Without focusing on what I'm trying to achieve, but on the practice itself, as a part of who I am.  Just something I do every day.  Or every other day.  Every Tuesdays and Thursdays.  As long as it's something I keep doing month after month, year after year.  This seems to be the most integral part of how anyone ever really gets good at anything.

It also just seems to be a healthy way to keep doing healthy things, when I really really don't feel like it.  Which is kind of a lot.  I sure wish there were something I could do about that.

I also theorize that things like running regularly should help.  I must have way more mitochondria by now, right?  Still, by the time I've made my morning coffee, I feel like I'm done for the day.  I need plenty of time to recover so that I'll be able to make myself another decent cup of coffee tomorrow.

Я много отдыхаю.

Friday, July 28, 2017

я хочет картошке пожалуиста

Drifting off to sleep last night, my head was swimming with foreign words and sounds that I'm only just beginning to recognize.  Please, thank you, man, woman, dog, cat, onion, potato, да, нет.  I can recognize more words in text than in hearing them, but I can recognize both much more easily than I can reproduce them.  I can speak like a very young child on a few issues, like dogs eating apples, and I can barely spell anything at all.

I've been watching my two cousins raising their brand new little people, so maybe that's why that's been on my mind.  Anja points and calls out the only words she knows.  Aliza understands everything people say to her and even some sign language, but she isn't ready to bumble through trying to vocalize any of it herself, just yet.  I've been feeling like I can relate.  Well, more to where they were a few months ago.  Catching a familiar word here or there, but for the most part, just hearing a jumble of incomprehensible sounds.

I've been wanting to learn other languages all my life.  I've attempted to learn French, Spanish, and Hebrew, yже.  My efforts have always fizzled.  It wasn't until I was in New Jersey that my attempt at Spanish felt like it was going pretty well.  I'd only stopped when I moved to Vermont.  There isn't a lot of Spanish spoken around here.  I also ran out of Omnitrope for a while.  I'm not really sure why I stopped.  I'd be all but fluent by now, if I'd kept at it until starting Russian.

Maybe I was afraid that if I filled my head with too much Spanish, I'd have no room for a third language.  Maybe a little bit, but I know that's absurd.  We can tell ourselves all sorts of stories, but some of us need more sophisticated stories than others.  Another one is that I'd just gotten my first smartphone, started using a language teaching app that held my hand the entire way.  It provides the guidance of a teacher, without needing to deal with an actual person.  Sure, it's not a great teacher, but it's a nice little intuitive interface, and honestly, I've had actual teachers who were worse.

All sorts of things I've attempted to learn in my life, I've tried to do on my own.  For various reasons, I've never had much guidance.  I know that not everyone needs a whole lot.  My sister seems to have needed much less, winging whatever she had to, when everyone around her was being less than helpful.  I know there are people that teach themselves foreign languages with nothing but a translation dictionary.  It's a spectrum, but I seem to be at the other end of it, and I wonder why that is.

Sometimes I wonder about the difference between childhood and being an adult.  By all sorts of metrics, you end up drawing an arbitrary line under which some adults won't qualify, and some children will.  There seems to be an element of confidence to it.  At some point, a human being says ok, I get how it's done, let me do it myself.  Growing increasingly fervent about it, as they make their way from the terrible twos, through adolescence.  When I was two, I went around pointing at things, and asking if they were fragile.

I come from a patriarchal line who seem oddly terrified of doing things wrong.  Each making the successive generation even worse.  I've never even arrived at feeling as though I get it.  That I'm ready to handle life on my own.  Not for lack of trying, it's a feeling that sabotages every effort, at every step of the way.  It's a feeling of needing to be shown how anything is done.  This has been extremely problematic, given that I'm not exactly a people person.

There are probably all sorts of things I'd be enthusiastic about learning how to do, if only there were someone an app to walk me through it.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

я don't speak human

I've tried to leave my past behind, old patterns of thought and behavior.  Years of life lessons that have not worked out well for me.  I've tried to free myself from who I was, who I am, but a few old songs can bring it all back.  I'm reminded of what it's like to think I can believe in myself, whatever that might really mean.

Put it to music, an artful narrative, to which I relate.  I'm reminded of how like everything, it's so much a matter of perspective.  None of the facts change, only a difference in what's valued.  How we assess the importance of everything around us.  Who we are, what we do, where we're trying to go in life.  It's not something that can be right or wrong, per se.

Perspectives can however, be undermined by how well they achieve, at the very least, that which they might claim to value.  It's a whole lot easier to tell humanity to fuck right off, when you're doing ok, going your own way.  Practicalities, like taking care of our own needs, food, shelter.  Not being forced to ask for help.  Maybe I wouldn't need help, if America weren't so dysfunctional, but still.  Taking my disability check really takes the wind out of that whole "fuck right off" thing - as would devoting most of my waking life to some shit minimum wage job, really.



What does it really mean, not to speak human, to embrace alienation, to tell society to go fuck itself, and all that entails?  It means something very different, when it's spending your life living alone in a basement.  It makes it so much harder to remember why I've done this to myself.  To have much pride in my resolve, as I sit around feeling lonely and miserable.

Maybe early in life, I should have just engaged more in popular media, music, movies, sports, like everyone else?  It is weird to think about how.. well, yeah.  I could have done that, and honestly, it would have made life a whole lot easier.  Not that such a trivial choices would matter as much now, but I can see how at the time, it could have meant all sorts of things turning out better for me, if I'd been more socially connected.  If I'd even just attempted to join the herd.  Especially now, as I can see how often people welcome the attempt itself, as a sign of good will.  I can see how maybe it has been problematic.. tacitly telling everyone that everything they like sucks.

Not to make it too black and white, I'm not even talking abject negation of self identity, but I could have branched out more tactfully, without all the alienation.  I could have made some effort to be normal.  That does seem to be what lots of people do, balancing their individuality with wanting to be welcomed by their peers.  I've been listening to so many different interpretations of my life, it's easy to lose track of what I do know.  I was very clear in my rejection of any such notion, often even putting it into writing.

Maybe not an entirely rational choice.  I might misjudge values, of what was worth striving for, and what was worth holding onto.  There is fixation of sorts on self-identity tied into it all, in everything from aesthetic preferences to deeper ethical concerns.  In an abstract sense, I can see how I probably would have been better off, doing things differently.  In theory, if I were to get a do-over of my life, which I'd play like a video game, from a safe difference.  Without all the complications of having to feel any of it.

Some things never change though.  If I have to actually sit through sports and pop music?  Oh, hell no.  Fuck that.  Screw you, humanity.

It occurs to me that left-wing politics might be the closest I can get, to ranting about the things that bother me about people, in a way that resonates.. with people.  That gets lots of upvotes from random strangers on Facebook.  That sort of thing.  I'd really rather be hanging out in the woods doing shrooms and playing music, though.

Friday, July 7, 2017

wealthiest poverty in the world

Under a recent post calling into question the legitimacy of American exceptionalism, I commented that the US is exceptional in one particular way, generally considered positive.  We're number one in prison population, and military spending, but lots of people are against that.  The one thing we do clearly have going for us though, is that we are the wealthiest country in the world.

I was actually surprised how many people laughed at this.  We can bicker about whether it makes more sense to measure wealth per capita, or in total - but even per capita, the US ranks way up there.  It's simply a fact that this country is one of the wealthiest in the world.  I certainly didn't expect that to be so controversial that people would laugh.  

That's kind of shocking, right?  The wealthiest country in the history of the world has half its citizens thinking it's broke.  Literally, no money to do anything.  We're too poor.  I don't think people even understand what wealth means, let alone the national debt they claim to be so concerned about.

Some pointed to Dubai as an example of what wealth looks like, so this was my response.
 America doesn't spend its wealth on infrastructure or its people. It just redistributes it to the top, where the wealthiest people horde it. The way that they put it, they're allowed to keep their own profits, instead of being taxed - but where do they get those profits? From the American people, from workers to consumers.  
It's all part of the same economy, and by not paying into it enough, relative to what they're extracting, it makes America look a lot poorer than it is.  
Yeah, we could have cities like Dubai, but we don't. 

On the other hand, people take issue with the idea that anyone in America is really poor.  One posted an article about how many of these so-called poor people have cellphones and computers.  I've mentioned that I even had video games, growing up.  My parents were new to credit.  My father didn't seem to understand or care that they couldn't afford the things he bought.  Computer stuff, mostly.  At least we didn't live somewhere that throws people in prison or beats them to death for that sort of thing, right?

I think a lot of the issue isn't really just personal wealth, but how much spending there is on infrastructure, mass transit, public education, public places of all kinds.  In all of that, America has been on the decline for decades, because of the idea that wealth is personal, and those who have it should be able to keep it.  Well, turns out, they don't like spending on that sort of stuff, when they have jets and properties all over the world.  Personal wealth inequality makes the absence of public spending all the more glaring for those that don't have other means.

The inadequacy of a cellphone to substitute for luxuries like healthcare, education, or owning any land at all.  These things being much more expensive than a phone or even an old computer.  The problem is largely one of wealth inequality, where the richest Americans drive up the costs of everything.  In the US, a person can get a few hundred a month, which would be enough to live well in many places - but in the US, it's not enough to even pay the lowest of rent, let alone food, utilities, or anything else.  Simply having money is not wealth.  It's all about context, and what the wealth is worth, relative to everything else in society.

Wealth is a measure of the economy, the flow of goods and services, resources, labor, and consumers.  Wealth is nothing without the economy that gives it value.  Yet there seems to be this widespread belief that the more a person takes from the economy for themselves, the more they must inherently deserve it.  Americans think their country is poor, yet don't understand how national wealth has anything to do with those making millions of dollars from the rest of us.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

counter culture

I was maybe twelve years old when I started taking an interest in music.  At first, just stuff that I heard on the radio, but rapidly evolving from there.  As my tastes refined, they moved further and further away from mainstream.  It certainly feels as if I just like what I like, but maybe there is more to it than that.

For some reason, my taste in food comes to mind next.  I know appreciation of good food isn't all that unusual, but McDonald's and Budweiser is most premier cuisine in America.   In my experience, the masses have downright horrifying taste.  Still, just to be sure, I also like my food so spicy that literally no one I know can eat it, other than me.

Don't get me started on people with their jobs and their families - my thoughts on all that are more complicated than aesthetic aversion, and yet regardless, here I am.  No job, no family.  I can't really relate to any of that.  Just another way in which I'm some kind of alien.  On the one hand, I want to say that this isn't exactly of my choosing, and yet, it sort of is.  I refused to prioritize anything like that, when I had the chance.  I had no interest in doing what everyone else was doing.

Then there's politics.  I voted for the candidate that only got 1% of the vote.  There does seem to be a pattern here.  It could be that I feel some sort of need to define myself in contrast with what I perceive to be normal.  An aversion to people that allows me to take pride in my isolation.

Or, it could be that social behaviors reinforce interests, establishing herd behavior.  Spending so much time alone, I've just sort of gone my own way.  Almost any direction is going to be away from mainstream. I seem to do this when it comes to almost everything in life, so maybe it is some of both.

In recent years though, I find my interests in all sorts of things gradually waning, wondering if it's because none of it is being socially reinforced.  It all just feels sort of hollow.  It's deflating being the only person I know who likes anything I like.. but I also know that my tastes aren't that impossibly obscure.

The problem compounded by leaving my apartment no more than absolutely necessary.  Always for as briefly as possible.. which I'm afraid might be because going places and doing things got really discouraging after a while.

Friday, June 30, 2017

the babbling of chimps

Listening to Sapolsky often gets me thinking about how distracting the narratives we tell ourselves can be.  How often there's something biological going on, that we have no clue about.  So we explain our lives this way or that, without ever suspecting that it's all just a faerie tale we've dreamed up, to compensate for our ignorance.

Often incredibly enduring, as we start learning it young, guided by the faerie tales of our elders.  Trying to understand how they live, what matters.  Onto our social interactions with others, and what matters to them.  The peer groups we learn to identify with, or against.  Everything people around us teach, intentionally, and unintentionally.

As our worldview develops, assumptions form from its foundations.  Everything learned, then built upon those foundations, never to be questioned.  Meanwhile, we've actually got neurotransmitters and hormones pulling us this way and that, through the well-trodden pathways we've forged in our years of acting in the repetitive ways that worked for us at the time.  Driven by the lessons we've learned, how life works, what we're supposed to be striving for, what we might achieve, and what we learn that we can't.

I think back on my childhood, and I can see how I was essentially railroaded by circumstances into the ostensible adult that I am.  As a kid, learning that I wasn't like other kids, that I couldn't achieve positive results by socializing with them.  I came to identify with my sense of alienation, even take pride in it.  An effort to make the most of the situation, which I carried with me, the story of my life, who I am.

The benefits of social behaviors were not for me, as far as I could tell, and I think that turns out to include growing up, learning to function in society.  This seems to be part of the natural process of learning, adapting, and nor did I have any sort of guidance or resources to make up the difference.  I can understand what went wrong medically, socially, parentally, financially,  developmentally.  How this was calcified and deeply internalized over the years of just living with the reality of it.

I understand why that's so difficult to do anything about, but I need to figure out how to do something about it anyhow.  I think what it comes down to is independence.  That's why I go back to the issue of work, all the time, but it's not just a matter of money.  People seem to have a sort of social capital, too.  The more confident they can be, about functioning socially, the less they need much money.  Whether it's knowing that wherever you go, you'll be able to work something out with the local populace, or just having friends and family, community.

People run the whole gamut, but the more alone and socially incompetent a person is, the more material poverty is compounded.  Seems lots of people end up in much worse situations than I, for roughly similar reasons.  That is, to put it in very broad terms, failing to navigate American society well enough to achieve what we're told is almost trivially easy to achieve.  It's completely insane that I actually have more money saved than most Americans do (1) To be clear though, I am in the bottom ten percent or so.  Just good at not buying much of anything.

I seem to be what Chomsky refers to as the precariat.  Such an apt term, but this is made all the more precarious by social isolation and ineptitude.  What if this is not who I have to be?  Is that possible?  Sometimes for a flickering moment here or there, I think maybe there is an solution to be found, somehow.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

really late bloomer

I often think maybe I'm just developmentally stunted.  Not emotionally, or intellectually, but something that develops a little later.  I've never heard of it framed as a developmental issue, but that's what it feels like.  I fear that wandering alone in the wilderness might not be the right way to learn how humanity works.

I feel this constant angst, because I am not independent.  I could have the rug pulled out from under me at any moment, for whatever reason, and I have no faith in my ability to survive if that happens.  I think it would be a little crazy to have such faith, knowing myself a little better than that, and just how badly I'd likely handle the stress.

I find it very difficult to allow myself to be immersed in anything, lest I wake up to find myself in such a situation.  An obsessive hyper-vigilance, and a hesitance to even fight it, as I'm not entirely sure there isn't good reason for it.  Could be stress hormones misfiring, could be frighteningly rational, I don't know.  Better to keep obsessively worrying about it, just in case.

I could figure out how to build myself a shack, plant myself some crops, fish if it came to that, but of course, I'd have to buy land first.  Pay taxes.  I feel like I was never ready to be an adult, earn a living, be a part of civilization.  I don't know that I can get a job, or work if I had one.  I feel like getting out of bed every day is just about all the responsibility I trust myself to handle, and there are some days when even that feels like pushing it.  It's the zillion interactions involved in getting anything or anywhere.

I've managed to bounce around for twenty years in spite of this, grinding through as few such interactions as possible, but I've been shaken from just accepting it, by realizing how fragile this stability can be.  I'm not comfortable being dependent on the whims of my psychotic clown government, and this is the very same issue that prevents me from just leaving.  I need to learn to how to function as an adult human among humans.

Maybe taking growth hormone has something to do with why I'm feeling this need more.  Maybe it's interacting with cortisol in some way, and I'm not used to it.  Maybe coincidence.  It's like there's been this new chemical reaction going on inside my skull somewhere, that looks a lot like, "Wait, I have to worry about my own survival?!  Are you fucking kidding me?"

Whatever the case, it doesn't seem to be enough to overcome the fact that I never learned how to do this properly.  There's doesn't seem to be anything in particular to learn, though.  This is why it seems more developmental.  Like my brain was supposed to shift into a different gear, but it never did that.  I don't even know what starting to move in that direction is supposed to look like.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

new york chomsky

"We lived, [...] about a hundred miles from New York.  When I was 11 or 12, my parents would let me go to new york by myself, on the train, I'd stay with relatives, and hang around anarchist bookstores and Union Square."



Chomsky's words could be my own, here.  I stayed with Daniel there, behind the museum, many times.  I walked a lot, but I think maybe I was supposed to attempt speaking with people, in some manner.  Not the sort of ghost that I was, drifting in and out, unnoticed, engaging with nothing and no one.  Except the food, when I could scrape together enough courage and crumpled bills.  New York has some of the best food I've had anywhere, and sometimes it was even pretty cheap.

I couldn't really afford to do much but wander.  I did hang out at lots of book stores.  Once in a while, even bought one.  Sometimes went to see live music at this one tiny punk club I liked.  Mostly just did a whole lot of walking though.  Even at places and times, I really should have been more nervous than I was.

Doesn't seem exactly like the behaviour of someone overcome with anxiety.  An over active fear center would be more generalized, and that doesn't seem to be the case with me.. maybe that's why social anxiety doesn't necessarily feel like anxiety.  Maybe biochemically, it is something a little different.

I was fine, as long as I didn't have to interact with anyone - and yet that was possibly the whole point of all that wandering.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

yeah and also but then

Sometimes responding to a comment, I get a little carried away.  Sometimes I even catch myself, and decide, eh, doesn't matter.  Post it anyhow.  Other times, maybe it does matter, so I'll just cut and paste it somewhere, instead. When comments are too long, people don't even read them.

It's usually much better to say less.  It can even discourage replies, as people don't want to respond in kind, nor in contrast.  At times, I even do this in person.  Some tell me that I'm prone to rambling.  Odd characteristic for an introvert, right?  Maybe I've just given up on being social, because people kept telling me I was rambling.  Not much point when no one's listening.

Crazy thing is, strangers seem to like it.  Facebook just informed me the other day, that I've accrued over 84,000 upvotes.  This is not from my profile, as nobody I know ever likes anything I post - but posting comments on public articles, sometimes even at rather awkward length.

I don't know what's going on, but it can be a bit addictive.  Not just the conversation and positive feedback, but just the act of venting my thoughts.  I don't know if there's any good reason for it, or if there really needs to be.  Scattered, alternating between tweets, comments, and blogging - but even then, always careful not to make it too long.

It helps having a theme.

At the very least, I'd love to see Democrats make this central to their platform.  Not just repealing Citizens United, but acknowledging that the problem goes deeper than that, and offering some sort of plan to do something about it.

From what I can tell, so much that's wrong in the world comes back to greed, the wealthy trying to get wealthier in some way.  Using their wealth to get our legislators to help them do it - and we're the wealthiest country in the world.  

Arguably doing the most damage.  Not directly, but also indirectly, including all the different ways we interfere with other countries.  It's always about American "interests," largely being defined by our industry, finance, and business, through the favor they've curried with our politicians.  Often by helping them get elected.

I could probably just ramble randomly and at great length for no reason and to no one, but I think that might be somewhat less productive.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

На вкус и цвет товарищей нет

There is a pattern here.  I can see it.  Complex, but mostly rational, and yet, never predictable.  Not something I could have orchestrated.  I can only see how it comes together after the fact.  The elusive process of motivation.  At it's peak, what some are calling "flow," movement and focus, and probably not thinking about how or why.

Think about it or not though, there are underlying mechanics.  Reasons we feel the way we do, like something, feel inspired by something.  I started learning Russian, today.  I've been watching Oliver Stone's "Putin Interviews," and almost find myself liking Putin. I've been wanting to take another stab at learning a second language, but haven't decided on which.  It occurred to me to check if Duolingo offers Russian.  It does.

My Uncle Dan comes to mind.  I remember him writing me an email once, saying something to the effect that hearing from me remorqueurs aux cordes du coeur.   That was Daniel's corner of the family.  Dan, and his sister, my grandmother, Lil.  Always felt more of an affinity to that corner of the family, for whatever reason.  Their mother was very old, when I was very young, so I didn't know her.  Yetta Slobodinskaya.  She was agoraphobic, I've been told.  Went years without leaving the house.



Still, there's something else to it.  Gears clicking into place, connecting, moving.  I've been running, meditating, I've been taking better care of myself.  I've been taking vegan Omega-3 supplements.  Whatever the case, all these stars aligned and I found myself doing something that I've been meaning to do for a year or two now.  It would be really good if I could get a handle on this, because that's ridiculous.



Tuesday, June 13, 2017

peer review

I do seem to be a bit of a weirdo.  That is, unusual in my interests, my way of thinking, my entire lifestyle.  My sense of alienation could simply be that I find it difficult to find any points upon which to relate to people.  How does this happen though?  People's interests are usually shaped by their social interactions, right?  

Why did I choose to instead form my identity from abstract bits and pieces of the broader observable world?  Everyone I knew had lousy taste.  In everything.

No, that's unnecessary.  People like what they like.  Who am I to judge.  My tastes do seem to be a bit obscure though.  At times, I go the other way, questioning the sanity of it.  That is, what the hell am I always doing by myself, way out in left field?  Maybe I'm the one who doesn't know what's going on?  Sometimes I wonder if I might just be malfunctioning in some way.

This doesn't seem to be working out well for me, but, is this the result of my anxiety, or is it the cause?  Being in a world that makes me feel like some kind of crazy person does make me anxious - isn't that entirely rational?  

I'm a little skeptical of the notion that I'd have different results anywhere else, but if there's a sane country out there somewhere that will take me, who knows.

I bet North Koreans think the whole world is insane, too.  I wonder if school lunches there are as bad as mine were.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

i don't love america

Ok.  Serious question.  Can I just fucking leave?  Maybe if I lived in a country where working wasn't quite so awful, I might even be able to handle giving it a shot.  Maybe I don't know what real poverty means, but I don't know, maybe it would be a huge improvement, even living in a dirt poor village where people actually cared about each other.
Unless there's a drought or something, I'd probably even eat better.

See, I was not aware that such places actually exist.  In America we're taught that everywhere else is worse.  Most go their whole lives believing that.  Sure, universal healthcare and education, but that's just, I don't know.  America is just lagging behind in a few areas, right?  I'm starting to think the problem might go a lot deeper.  I'm afraid Americans might just be ignorant self-centered assholes.  That's hardly even a controversial thing to say.

I should find somewhere else to go.  Like the rest of the world, just hoping it's not somewhere with leaders the US wants to overthrow or bomb.  As I type this, I'm in the middle of watching Michael Moore's "Where to Invade Next."  I'm afraid I might be too damaged, though.  I don't share Moore's optimism anymore.  I have to be pretty stoned to even consider it.

When America sends its people, they're not sending their best.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

ex post facto reduction

A sensible therapeutic approach might be to ask for examples.  What sort of ambitions do I imagine being successful?  At first, I panic as the self-doubt hits.  Am I making this up?  Just some nonsense rambling that I can't even substantiate?

I don't know why I do that to myself.  A second later, I remember that just yesterday, I had such thoughts.  A meme came through my feed about J.K. Rowling, and what a rough life she had.  Dysfunctional in numerous ways, before she started writing, when she was in her thirties.  Writing was one of the very first ambitions I had, often recurring because it makes sense on a number of levels.  

I'm not saying that I'd be the next J.K. Rowling, but I could probably write competently and creatively enough to make some money at it.  I start thinking of specifics, the sort of writing I'd want to do.  How I could skillfully weave politics and philosophy into it.  Fantasy or sci-fi, with some emotional depth to it.  Maybe I'd even be exceptional at it.

When I say I, that is, the I that I would be, if I were not the I that I am.  If only I could just tweak my brain a little.. because yeah, I know.  Come on, do it.  Of course you can do it.  At least just fucking TRY.

but no.  Apparently not.

What does it mean to expect to fail.. it means anticipating that there will be no reward.  It means ego or the default mode net,  or whatever we want to call it, trying to make sense of what's missing.  An ex post facto fabrication that explains it all in terms that make sense, on a more intuitive level.  We say "what's the point" or "I'm not good enough" to explain to ourselves why the machinery isn't doing what it's supposed to do.

It doesn't end there, however.  How we think and explain things to ourselves does make its way back into the depths of the machinery, and can exert influence on its workings, but how much, its hard to say, and it varies.  If we beat ourselves up over a mistake, even if it wasn't really our fault, we might be more careful next time, and despite all that, keep it from happening again.  Or, we might demoralize ourselves to the point of never trying again.

There are better and worse ways of going about that, but it varies from one individual to the next.  We exert influence, but can't measure its impact, except by experience.  We can learn that our efforts are either self-actualizing, or self-defeating, depending on which chemical reactions occur when we've done anything.  We can still get it all wrong, learn all the wrong lessons, but that's just the outcome of a whole other set of chemical reactions and experiences.

Amidst all these factors, we could theoretically know physiology well enough to understand what's optimal.  We can try to help everyone get there, as many already are, naturally.  Bones break because of all sorts of reasons, too.  Nutrient or hormone deficiencies, genetics, exercise.  If anything is clearly lacking, it's not rocket science to try to do something about that, so that our bones will be less likely to break.  If they do break, we take some basic steps to help it repair, so that we won't become permanently crippled.



The mind, like our bones, is just as physiological, but that's not to say there aren't all sorts of things involved in the health of either.  We just don't understand the mind quite as well, yet.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

mechanics of ambition

All ideological differences aside, I don't understand how the hell Democrats fucked up this badly.  Lining up behind Clinton, manipulating both primaries, and then losing.. worst strategic blunder I've ever seen in my life.

Even Republicans aren't this stupid.  They tried everything to stop Trump from winning the primary, because they knew, people hate him, and it would cripple the whole party.  People hated Clinton just as much, but lets prop her up against the worst candidate ever and roll the dice anyhow..

WTF #PiedPiper

I'm so glad those fuckers lost.  They deserved to lose ..but enough, that's what Facebook is for.  This is where I tangle things into more complicated knots.  Kyle here is concerned that Clinton might be considering another presidential run.  Thinking about whether that could be true, I tried imagining it from her perspective.  If she's anything like me -wait, scratch that.  She's not.

She's highly ambitious, highly motivated.  What was it Sapolsky said about how dopamine works?  It's all about the anticipation of the reward.  Probable, improbable, doesn't matter at all, so long as you think it's possible.  You keep thinking about that.  It becomes a self-reinforcing pattern, as ambition itself is the true source of the dopamine, not achieving what you think you're striving for.  Just trying is the real reward, as far as the neurochemistry is concerned.

What does that mean, from the perspective of the individual?  She might envision #TheResistance growing stronger and stronger, as Trump's failures accumulate.  The American people finally realizing that she was their salvation all along.  Or at least, coming to their senses, somewhat.  Certainly, there would be plenty of cheering from her supporters, as she rebounds from defeat to save America from Mein Trump!  People around her might put a stop to it this time, but if it were entirely up to her.. eh, she might be that sort of person.

Quite unlike myself.  Thinking about doing things just makes me anxious.  I envision success all the time, and how probable it would be, if it weren't for the fact that I'm not going to do any of it.  Sometimes I do little things, but that's not really the point.  It's like pushing a car without gas.  Yeah, it moves, but it doesn't get very far.

Except under particularly extreme circumstances, it's a lousy pattern that should be self-negating.  My life really wouldn't suck at all, if not for the fact that I make it suck.  The causality of it should fail immediately, in favor of something more effective at getting dopamine flowing.  Or what, some part of my brain just goes, nah, I'd rather feel like crap?  Just tell me which part.  I'll go get the screwdriver.

Life itself should be all the cognitive behavioral therapy a person needs, if their neurochemistry flows properly.  I think we can push ourselves to overcome, to some extent, and that's great and all.. but if such a pattern doesn't form on it's own, it probably needs more than just practice.  If you're not getting that dopamine out of it, you're still going to keep wondering what the fuck's the point, instead of thinking about whatever it is you want to do next.

Constantly at risk of slipping back into old patterns, because that's just the way the neurochemical math works out.  It's all I've got for now, but's not really a solution.

expertise

A lot of my familiarity with mental health issues began with my efforts at making sense of America's mental health systems.  Each state has been a little different, each therapist, each psychiatrist, but they did seem to share a variety of attributes.  Possibly systemic in nature, similarities in education practices, or the pharmaceutical industry's influence, who knows.  Conventional wisdom that had a few consistently gaping holes in it.

One of which being an aversion towards treating mental health and physical health as related, unless glaringly obvious.  Hypopituitarism was always brought up early, and yet, always left there, amidst my introduction, never to be considered relevant again.  Never was it suggested that I should get any neurological testing done, or anything of that nature.  We don't seem to be at the point scientifically, where that makes a whole lot of sense, so they don't even mention it.  Seems they don't like dealing with any of that, as if there's a solid dividing line between practices.  Psychiatrists never mention endocrinology, therapists never mention neurology, nobody ever mentions neuroendocinrology, etc.

Most of my digging in those areas being more recent, as it just wasn't the direction I'd been pointed.  Most of my life, my framing has been strictly psychiatric, psychoanalytic, or somewhere in between.  My criticism of the industry being leveled at those fields, not the research adding entirely new dimensions to the discourse.  Studies of treatments that are still in their infancy, a long ways from showing reliable efficacy, and being established as standard practice.  Instead, still largely ignored in favor of traditional methods of thoroughly well documented inadequacy.

At least in my experience.  It could be yet another example of the US being behind the curve.. I have no idea what it's like in other places.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

citation needed

I know that part of my problem is that I expect to fail.  It would be ignorant to assume that  this is irrational, and that I just need to think more positively, yet this is the direction many people go in.  The causes and complexities of what makes us who we are goes way over our heads.  I haven't exactly got it all figured out, either.

Found myself watching a new Robert Sapolsky talk, and then as often happens, taking interest in some of the related videos, and then looking up what he's going on about, or some question that comes to mind.

I thought this was interesting.

"Sapolsky on the Science of Pleasure"

I found myself digging around a little, and came up with this.

"Motivation Deficit in ADHD is Associated with Dysfunction of the Dopamine Reward Pathway"

So, what does it mean to expect to fail?  This is just a symptom, an outcome.  It doesn't say much about what's causing it.  It doesn't even shed light on what it means to fail.  What is that's expected?  What we accomplish isn't really at the heart of that, so much as what we think we've accomplished, and how we feel about it.  What sort of chemical reactions take place in the brain, that we might feel either accomplishment or failure.

This can be the result of experiences, learned behaviors, upbringing, culture, and ultimately, physiology.  The physiology trumps all of it, in that if the chemistry isn't there, nothing else will matter.  Physiology itself being the outcome of internal and external environmental factors, as well as genetics, and just random variation.

It's a difficult question to answer.  Impossible, even.  Maybe this, maybe that.  In reading all these studies that I have over the years, it hard to miss all the speculative language, the layer upon layer of hypothesis.  What does it mean that a dysfunction is "associated with" a given neurological process? Correlation, causation, what other factors might be involved, what can be done to remedy it, the remedies often being experiments of downright pitiful efficacy.. on so many levels, they're still sorting a lot of it out.

Yesterday, I was looking up the latest finding on why SSRIs don't work.  I found this article, where they discovered that if mice are incessantly tormented, they're less likely to recover from depression.  Therefore, they conclude, it's possible that medication doesn't work as well for depressed people who are too stressed out by environmental factors.  Fucking brilliant, right?

"Why don't antidepressants work"

They also claim that they do work for 50-70% of people, yet other studies would seem to contradict this, suggesting that they're barely more beneficial than placebos.

This is not the work of people who know what they're doing.  It frustrates the hell out of me, but this is not to disparage their efforts.  They're making incredible progress, and as should be apparent, I consider it important work.  I think it's admirable, but, they do have a long ways to go.

"Antidepressants No Better Than Placebo?"

Comparative efficacy and tolerability of antidepressants
meta-analysis..

That's how science goes.  If I wanted certainty, I'd look more towards religion.  The closest we're going to get to that is make-believe.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

mood disorder

Getting to the grocery store has been more difficult, lately.  I got there earlier today, after much pushing and prodding of myself, but as I was putting things into my basket, I realized that I'd forgotten my wallet.  I put everything back, I walked home, I walked back.  It was hot and noisy and bright. but I finally have food again.

Sometimes going outside is really nice.  I'm surprised by how good the warmth of the sun feels, the soothing earthiness of the air as it rains, the still calm in the hours before dawn.  Even the lively bustling of people.  Sometimes I've even enjoyed being in crowds, hard as that may be to believe.

Other times, it's all like nails on a chalkboard and being badly hungover.  I haven't had any alcohol in a while, either.  I don't really want it enough to bother.  I don't really want anything.  I'm just tired.  I'm hoping that running helps me build an army of mitochondria riding endorphins, to fight my way out of this wet paper bag with.  I try all sorts of things, but exercise seems to be my best bet.

Amidst the contrast between moods, it seems I am at the mercy of something beyond my control.  I can step back, I can relax.  Sometimes I can even exercise.  The world is just so much more unpleasant and difficult, no matter what I do.  A whole lot of the time.. but I know it's not real.

It's just a matter of perspective, and I'm stuck in an awful one.  It doesn't seem to matter a whole lot that I know this.  As if, it just is.  Physiology, like a broken arm.  I can't just think it away, and I can't necessarily even function in spite of it.

Now and then, I go outside, and it actually feels pretty nice.  I always know that it can be.

When I say that I don't want anything, this is not to say that I don't want to do anything.  Or that I don't want to be anything.  Or experience anything.  There are all sorts of things I wish I could learn how to do.

It seems pathological that this doesn't motivate me to do much of anything.  Aren't people supposed to be able to pursue their goals, or something like that?  One might say that it's just not the way that I am, but I don't like it.  It kind of sucks.  I'd like to think that there might be some way to turn it around, someday.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

treatment resistant

I don't make a clear distinction between Axis I mood disorders and normal emotions.  To me, it just seems to be a matter of degrees.  A treatment for depression should also be a treatment for loneliness, or mourning, or legitimate exhaustion.

My understanding is that a person with depression feels these same emotions, but triggered more easily, more strongly.  A treatment for anxiety should also work when you have good reason to be afraid.  How about a drug to make me feel motivated or obsessed with doing stuff, the way other people seem to be?  I think one day, maybe we'll have iCortex apps, that let us pick whatever emotions we want.

Advancements like this might be dangerous, but right now, I don't think they'd know how to do it, even if they wanted to  That neither psychiatric medication nor recreational drugs work this way makes me think all they're really doing is poking around the margins, sometimes taking the edge off.  Sometimes that's enough to help.  Sometimes not.

I get frustrated that I seem to be very firmly in the "treatment resistant" category.  Often reminding myself that in my case, this could be due to my medical condition.  It's known to cause problems of this nature, though I seem to be an extreme case.  I just never really know, and it's so frustrating.  I've known lots of other treatment resistant nutcases in my life, and tend to think in a broader sense, this frustration is not so rare.

I'm running again though, and that's a good sign.  Also seem to be doing unusually well with it, considering that I've been slacking off for six months.  I expected a longer climb to get to the same shape I was in, but almost seem to be doing better than I was, already.  I'm thinking this must be the effect of the Omnitrope, so at least it's doing something.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

response ability

To question the objectivity of our understanding of the world is not to doubt objective reality.  It's a very straight-forward concept, that what we perceive isn't necessarily accurate.  We understand that there are optical illusions, and that cavemen didn't know what the moon was.

The more we see, the more aware we become of exactly how our perceptions mislead us.  It's unintuitive to accept that this means we are still being mislead.  Has science figured everything out, yet?  Of course not.  This is not at all to knock science.  What makes it great is the way it never concludes.  Science is always an open question, looking to be proven wrong.  It's by being proven wrong that progress is made.  As Feynman put it, science is never proven right.

This isn't just about science and human knowledge in the broad all-encompassing sense.  This is also about what we think we're doing exactly, as individuals, as we stumble through our daily lives.  What we know, what we understand, and how accurate it all is can have a whole lot to do with that, but further, more accuracy isn't necessarily beneficial.  We are evolved to be effective, not accurate.

Causality is fundamental to everything, and yet, explanations are often called excuses.  Wanting to understand the how and why, a futile exercise.  Decide, judge, act.  Just do.  Don't waste time trying to make sense of it, when you can charge full throttle ahead, and hope for the best - and in many situations, that is what actually works best.  What is that but confidence?  Even inflated by ignorance and irrationality, it tends to be much more Darwinistically beneficial than reticence.

It's a trade-off though.  It's a pretty straight line to point out how this means being wrong about all sorts of things.  Science might always be an open question, never entirely right, per se.. but it gets a lot closer than those who don't even try to sort it all out.  Does it really matter?  Not necessarily.   Unless you care about being right.  Rational, accurate, honest.  Evolution just wants you to have lots of kids.

Evolution doesn't really want anything, I know - but neither do you.  What we are and what we think we want, it's all just a product of causal relations, just as evolution is.  We personalize it because that's one of the many ways our minds have evolved to mislead us.  The illusion of ego leads us to think we make things happen.  We define who we are.  We are confident or we are lazy, we exist and we need to make better choices.

Better choices will sometimes be made.  Sometimes not.  There will be reasons.  An elaborate causality to it, in which the conceptual insertion of personal responsibility is unnecessary.  "je n'ai pas eu besoin de cette hypothèse."

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

depressed

I've often framed my issues as being something other than depression, and in part, that's because I think the term is too vague to be useful.  I think another component to my wariness of the term might be that I've suffered clinical organic depression, my entire life.  I suspect, the result of losing my pituitary, a symptom of this being that my entire childhood and ensuing development was established through the distorting influence of mental illness.

It's unusual for little kids to be clinically depressed.  Unless they've had to endure severe trauma, or have something wrong neurologically, kids tend to be quite energetic, motivated, optimistic and cheerful.  Even healthy adults look at them, wishing they could feel that way again.  You can see the same thing in other animal species, and even plants.  Youth generally provides a huge advantage, not only in physical health, recovery, and resilience, but mental health, as well.

When things go critically wrong that young though, it can go downhill from there.  It can inhibit the ability to recover from even the normal wear and tear of life, let alone anything more serious going wrong.  I often don't even think of myself as depressed, because I've been coping for so long.  It's all I know.  It's easy to mistake coping mechanisms for the real problem, because they've actually worked.

I've learned to overcome some symptoms of depression, but not others.  It's probably the reason I'm alive.  Hiding in my apartment might not help me attain self-actualization, independence, social connectivity or well-being, but it helps stave off a lot of the internal torment I've had a lifetime to figure out how to deal with, and enjoy myself, in spite of.

Some of this, certainly less than ideal.  Coping by not doing anything, not thinking about anything, not facing anything - obviously, those coping mechanisms are a huge problem.  A person has to face the trials and tribulations of life, not hide from them..  If only I had no idea what happens when I'm not coping.  If the severity of the underlying problem is misunderstood, obscured by how well I've learned to manage it.

It is conceivable that to some degree, my coping strategies have persisted well beyond their usefulness, but they're also deeply entrenched in who I am, pervading my transition from each moment to the next.  It's become the only way I know how to live.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

ahead of my time

Many things occur to me as I watch the rainforest episode of Planet Earth II.  Some things more relevant to what I was (trying to) watch, more than others.  One in particular that seemed worth jotting down, was what it means, that so many things occur to me.

I've come to understand that this is my Default Mode Network being loud and unruly.  If it were just distracting, that would be problematic enough, but it's often something miserable, too.  I guess what I'm trying to say, is that it can be rather unpleasant.  It occurs to me that I'm drawn to activities which get it to shut the hell up for a while.  Things that demand my attention and interaction, like gaming or trolling the Facebook #BernieWouldveWon

It's a need to be constantly distracted.  Driven to distraction.  The outcome being the attention deficit that it causes.  I think it's a habit that I learned pretty young.  I wonder if it had anything to do with that Atari 400.


My father had friends who were video game pirates.  I don't know if they were hackers or deck swabs or what, but they gave my father lots of free games.  Basically, all of them.  If it were published, we had a pirate copy.  Boxes full of floppy discs with the names of video games, sometimes 3 or 4 crammed onto one disc, scribbled in black sharpie.  I even remember lamenting that maybe it wasn't good, how I'd play each one for about 12 seconds, get bored, and play the next one.

So, yeah.  I'll go back to watching an amazing documentary now.  One of the best I've seen, while my default mode network pulls my hair, and bites me in the ear, as I'm trying to pay attention.