The Window Closes

This post will not be on a news article. I’ll post another one later.

I’m sitting in my office, going through the endless updates that is Windows day-to-day experience after using my desktop after a few months. My laptop is also running Windows, despite having Mint on the second partition. As I sit here and pull my hair out as the computers drag like cars with parachutes attached them, I realize how inefficient Windows really is. Both computers fly on Linux, whether I run it one hour or one week, I never see any loss in quality. My desktop has a very large processor (though out-of-date as usual with computer parts) and it is rocking 16GB of RAM. By all accounts, this computer should be moving like nothing matters. I am not even running anything that is too intensive. I guess it could be a hard drive issue, but again, the slowness is nowhere near as bad on Linux.

Windows is definitely on borrowed time. Windows 8 was such a failure that mainstream news articles explain to people how to roll back to Windows 7. Windows 8.1 is virtually Windows 9 in terms of changes, and it’s required to fix the issues that Windows 8 created. On top of all that, Windows has a really draconian method of app approval in the background, threatening the release of indie games. With this factors in mind, SteamOS cannot get here soon enough. If only someone could force MS to create Microsoft Office for Linux like they did for Mac, I’d probably never touch a Windows computer at home.

Back to the difficult task of opening folders. On a more upbeat note, I am expecting to publish my research post tonight.

The Tuned-Out Boomers

“LONDON — A record number of British retirees are receiving hospital treatment after taking recreational drugs like cocaine, cannabis and amphetamines according to a new report. Doctors diagnosed 888 people over the age of 65 as being poisoned by illicit drugs, with 473 aged 75 and over, according to new figures released by the U.K.’s Health and Social Care Information Center. Ten years ago the total was 283. ”

Source

Drugs are a scary thing to a lot of people. Through a ridiculously expensive campaign that has failed miserably, the governments of the world (though mostly the US) has fought drugs tooth and nail, and it has failed completely. It’s no small wonder why so many of the boomers, people born in a particularly rebellious time, are being hospitalized after consuming various illicit substances. The article even quotes a very silly man who lumps cocaine and cannabis together and calls them both “toxic.”  The quote-heavy article touches on this notion that cannabis is really dangerous, so dangerous it’s sending people to the hospital. It’s funny that they are talking about the people who enjoyed it and many other illict substances in the Sixties, when our attitudes towards drugs was much more lax. So why are people going to the hospital?

Recently, the news publicized a new drug hitting the scene in my area that is labeled as synthetic LSD. The drug, a nBOMe, is a research chemical created by Alexander Shulgin ages ago. In his books T.I.H.K.A.L. and P.I.H.K.A.L., he created a whole slew of psychedelics that people today are rediscovering. The problem comes in with this synthetic LSD is people who do these drugs in the club and festival scene end up taking a lethal dose and dying despite the fact it emulates drugs that have no LD-50.  Cannabis saw this with Spice/JWH-18, and rumors of of the synthetic heroin, Krokodil, landing stateside again, prove this continuing trend for beating the law through new chemicals. Bath Salts emulate a myriad of drugs, namely PCP, with horrible adverse reactions.

My theory is a lot of the elderly who enjoyed psychedelics, pot, and cocaine are going back to their old friends and finding a wolf in sheep’s clothing. These drugs are supposed to be great experiences when approached correctly, but with no foreknowledge or being sold something else, it creates a very dangerous playing ground for people who do use drugs recreationally.

The War on Drugs is an abject failure. By making substances of any sort illegal, people who want to partake of substances responsibly end up with unknown chemicals that send them to the hospital or kill them. While you should always know what you are consuming, it’s unrealistic to assume everyone is that smart when taking substances and the casualties are going to increase. Right now, in a lab in their basement, someone is making the next drug which will be sought after by everyone with a hidden side effect that is so horrible people will clamor to legalize the known stuff. Human nature doesn’t work well with prohibition; the 20s showed us that.

Awakening the Brain Dead

“Scientists have discovered a “signature” in brain activity that could explain why some severely brain injured patients awake from a minimally conscious state as result of sleep aid drugs and other medication. This is according to a study published in the journal eLife.”

MedicalNewsToday

Comas are a scary thing. On Reddit, a few people who came out of comas commented that the experience is very unlike how fiction likes to portray it. They recalled a few seconds before they went out (one guy cited a motorcycle accident), then the next second, to them, they were in a bed, sometimes pantomiming the experience. That sounds utterly terrifying to have such a massive lapse in memory.

The article I am responding to reports that patients using the sleep drug Ambien have been shown to awaken from this “minimal cognitive state.” The article goes on to show how little we really understand the brain and damage to it:

Using electroencephalography (EEG) to monitor the patients’ brain waves when using Ambien, the researchers found that although their brains were damaged in different ways, they all demonstrated the same low frequency waves in their readings. In detail, these brain waves were found to be most active in the frontal cortex – a region known to be very dependent on other brain structures in order to be active, mostly the central thalamus and the striatum. These two areas work together to support a variety of functions, including short-term memory, reward, motivation, attention, alertness and sleep.

Essentially, despite everyone studied suffering damage through very different means, they all displayed the same net results in their brains. This notion leads me to believe that this minimal cognitive state,with my absolutely cursory understanding of brain evolution, could be a manner of self-preservation and protection that we evolved over the eons. It’s fascinating to think that early humans, who would have been less cautious in their lives, would have been more susceptible to potentially debilitating head injuries, and should they incur an injury like this, would they go into a low level catatonia, only to be perceived as dead? That’s kind of a chilling notion. How many early humans were presumed dead and left semi-conscious to decay?

The link between Ambien, a powerful sedative, and awakening these with brain damage is equally fascinating. The article says:

The investigators explain that in healthy people who use Ambien, it produces sedation and causes them to sleep. But in those who suffer severe brain damage, it activates the brain further following its activation of the “sleeping” cells, causing the patients to become more awake. […] “What we think is happening in these patients is that the initial excitation produced by Ambien turns on a specific circuit. The drug creates the opportunity for the brain to effectively catch a ride on this initial wave of excitation, and turn itself back on.”

So, in essence, Ambien acts as a reset charge for the brain. The article mentions that Ambien doesn’t really repair the damage, so much as act as a vehicle for repair, and that for true results, regular use must continue. L-Dopa (dopamine) is suggested as another drug that may recreate these benefits.

Considering the scary experience for insomnia that is Ambien, I think finding uses like this for drugs is imperative to keeping them around. The pharmaceutical industry is too quick to create a drug that does X with Y side effects rather than creating a drug that targets a particular function of the body and can be used for many reasons. With the growing call to legalize illicit substances, many of which have beneficial health properties, I think more studies like this will be funded with a great sense of regularity. Showing that despite the drug’s downsides there are many benefits will lead to them being embraced by the public.

The Invisible Currency

“Bitcoin prices began dropping rapidly Thursday following the People’s Bank of China’s announcement that it was barring the digital currency from all of China’s financial institutions. Individuals can still use Bitcoin, albeit at their own ‘risk.'”

Time

With news of Deep Web drug bazaar Silk Road, mainstream media covered the topic of the BitCoin. If you haven’t heard of it, which I don’t really blame you, Bitcoins (or BTC) is a form of decentralized, anonymous, digital currency. The basic concept is that the currency cannot be extraneously inflated, and instead, its value comes exclusively from people trading it and using it. The currency’s anonymous nature made it the perfect target of illegal marketplace’s like Silk Road.

I won’t cover how to buy BitCoins, nor will I answer the question of “are Bitcoins safe?” Those topics are well documented by many sites, but I will look at the sudden boom and current freefall of the Bitcoin.

As I started typing this entry, preev.com, a live Bitcoin ticker of sorts, had 1 BTC at $957. As of the end of this sentence, it has reached $940 and changing. Last week, it was stable at around $1110. This frenetic nature has caused many to call it a bubble or completely unstable. ($922) The problem with this notion is that BTC is closer to digital gold than fiat currency; it has little spending power outside of traders for the time being, though that is changing, and after the closure of Silk Road, a site that generated over 75% of all BTC at the time, the value increased. ($933)

So, what is driving the BTC price? Governments are embracing it as an alternate form of currency. Shortly before Cyprus had a run on its banks, it was announced that they would be using BTC to pay tuition. That created a nice boom, and I believe that was when BTC hit $250, a previously unprecedented number. Shortly after that goal, the BTC dropped to a stable ~$110 for a while, and people lamented that it was going to stay there forever. Instead the BTC hit massive milestones as the world watched causing the many investors to salivate at the potential of a new gold rush.

Coincidentally, I wonder how the Conspiracy Theorists are with the BTC. Alex Jones seems to have predicted the end of the BTC in May, which didn’t happen at all ($901). I find it funny that a man so terrified of the concept of the Amero, a supposed North American currency, isn’t seeing parallels with the BTC and panicking like he usually does. If the BTC continues its dominance and grows in ability to be spent ($895), then it isn’t hard to believe this will become a global currency.

It’s a fascinating world where digital currency can exist. It’s honestly no different than our current paper money which has no actual backing. It’s a fascinating game to watch, and I am looking for the next breakthrough. I watched the BTC go from 1BTC = $19 to 1BTC = $1110, and a lot of the world still seems in the dark on the concept of digital money. I’m not 100% certain a lot of the finer points, but I can appreciate how this concept will change the world in a very large way.

 

$898

The Sins of America

“Every morning at 5:45 a.m., John Kiriakou wakes up. He pulls on green pants and a green button-down shirt with his name and number on the front. Breakfast is at 6 a.m. He watches the news from 6:30 to 7:30 a.m., then goes back to sleep. He wakes up again at 11 a.m. for lunch, after which he exercises until around 2:30 in the afternoon. Mail call is at 3:30 p.m. Dinner is at 5 p.m.”

Thus starts a story by Al-Jazeera about the plight of a jailed whistleblower. Since Wikileaks came to the forefront of American perception, we have seen a new class of endangered individuals emerge: the whistleblower. Most of these people are exposing something extremely insidious and rampant in our government, and many of them are of a younger age. Chelsea Manning (formerly Bradley) is 25 years old today, and Edward Snowden is 30 now. These two represent a generation that is tired of the same, broken paradigm and seek to change the system, even through illegal means. Ross Ulbricht, the alleged Dread Pirate Roberts of Silk Road, can be lumped into this group of people, though his crimes were a bit more harmful as he was supply a connection to illegal and potentially dangerous drugs. Several articles when Silk Road went down showed that drugs acquired from the web site were of a higher purity than those on the streets. Ulbricht, through his various writings, sought to break the drug war which definitely has helped nothing. That’s a topic for another time.

The problem coming in is that the Obama administration is happy to attack any such whistleblower. The article says:

“The Obama administration has charged twice as many people as all the previous administrations combined under the almost 100-year-old Espionage Act. The latest among them is Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who revealed the existence of U.S. government surveillance programs.”

In an administration built on hope and change, presumably from the oppressive Bush regime, we are given even more of a lock down. Chelsea Manning found evidence of the military openly murdering people without any ramification. After she exposed that, she was arrested and held in captivity for years without a trial. Edward Snowden who revealed the worst thing in American history has been a fugitive of the “Land of the Free.” In the end, Manning is going to go to jail for a long time, and Edward Snowden will live in Russia until their regime decides he is a bigger threat to them than a boon.

What happened to cause this? I think the biggest push towards opening information is the Internet. Once Wikileaks existed, truly dangerous and detrimental information are no longer secrets. Through the relative anonymity of the Internet, we can learn things that previous generations never imaged possible. As we learned of other people in a universal place like the Internet, we realize that our current state is no longer in the best interest of the people, but it much more nefarious. Occupy Wallstreet further illuminated many within this information generation.

There’s some quote that says the sins of the father will bear on the sons. As we exist, and tolerate, a world where honestly, integrity, and spreading information are considered treason, we create a future where this is an accepted practice. It’s scary to think that the Nixon administration was held more accountable for the, comparatively, petty charges than the Bush and Obama administration will ever.

Update for 4/7

So this was frustrating. I had finished all my remaining entries for the series of blogs I was writing on music. Unfortunately, I had them all, unsynced, on my phone that had to be wiped clean. Frustrated at losing a few thousand words, I kind of lost my passion and drive for playing catch-up. Add in that I had some depressing news regarding my novel submission, and I was just in a bad place. I’ll add in the rest of the entries today, shortened, into a single post.

Regarding my novel, I had submitted it to an open call from Hydra, Random House’s sci-fi ebook brand. It was a long shot, but they asked for my full manuscript less than a week after submission. I was elated. The following month was pretty long as I waited for any response. After a query on the status, I felt my optimism boom, but it was sadly rejected. I wasn’t given a ton of a feedback, as I had expected since it was read over a month in its entirety. The major suggestions require a massive rewrite, which after thinking on it and planning, I am kind of excited about doing.  The story will be much more focused and streamlined, and I should be able to get a lot more of my desired themes in there with more cohesion. It is still such a massive undertaking on something I have worked on a lot already. The cool thing is it was my first submission ever. This agent was the first person, other than my wife, to actually read the full novel, and she liked parts of it. That’s a pretty good start I think. I am finally dragging myself to begin work on it. My goal is to have the completed rewrites, polished, for May 1st. We’ll see how that works.

On that same topic, I am trying to write a novel for a publishers new Shared World project. Like the older ones, the publisher created a world, and writers are invited to submit stories that fit int his world. My first idea was pretty interesting, but on hindsight it turned out to be really close to one of my favorite novels. I tweaked the outline, since I only wrote chapter 1 for review, and I think the story is going to be interesting enough. I am submitting that to the editor of the books tomorrow to make sure I am on the same page as they want, but I am pretty optimistic I created something unique for the world.

I also may be doing a presentation for a lucid dreaming conference. The person in charge liked my take on a topic, and she approved my direction. Next step will be research and drafting, but it looks pretty positive.

Today, I’ll post two reviews I have read as well as the remainder of that series of songs.

“Friday Night”

Every now and then, I will find a REALLY terrible, shitty song.  Enter The Millionaires. If you mix 90s entitlement issues with presumably rich kids with no real problems and then add a dash of drugs and alcohol, you get The Millionaires.

Their sound is like hitting a feedbacking speaker playing 80s synth with a baseball bat. The worst part about this vapid, useless people is they performed one song that was REALLY catchy while being utterly inane.

“Alcohol” is about partying. There’s no soliloquy on the downtrodden worker or making a backhanded praise of alcohol to show the damage it does to the alcoholic. No, this song is JUST about partying by some pretentious girls who think they are really attractive.

For partying and being stupid, it works really well. The line “Friday Night, It’s time to Party” opens the song as if it was meant to be nailed to your spine, always ready to be tapped into when you least desire it. When someone would exclaim “Friday Night!” without hesitation, I would parrot back “It’s time to party.” Realizing I have been infected, I would retreat to a Tibetan cave until I lose the concept of speech for my transgression against humanity for proliferating this virus.

As if a common phrase like “Friday Night” isn’t ruined, the party anthem “Let’s get fucked up” is also ruined for double points.

If you hate yourself, listen to it. It’s pretty humorous.

The full music video with better audio quality.

Embedded with lower quality but the Falkner-esque lyrics:

“Love Me” – Ruined Phrases

The Cardigans wrote a song called “Lovefool” that is a verbal brain parasite. The chorus has a cheery, poppy girl singing “Love Me, Love Me, Say That You Love Me./Fool Me, Fool Me, Go On and Fool Me” that gets stuck in my head for days when I hear the phrase.

The fascinating structure of the chorus has the first two words of each line repeated three times, with the third time fitting into the sentence that elaborates on the line “Love Me, Love Me, Say That You Love Me.”

The problem with the song is that its so simple and the ruined phrase is so commonly heard in that cadence that it gets embedded in your brain like a hungry deer tick. The song isn’t bad, but it is definitely that poppy 90s sound that really hasn’t been emulated yet.

In the interest of making this easier, I’ll do two today, and two tomorrow to play catch up.

In Your Head

This phrase comes up depressing a lot when talking to people. I say depressingly because of how ingrained this phrase is with the song by The Cranberries “Zombie.”

The chorus of the song is a repetition of “In your he-ad. In your he-e-e-e-ad. Zomb-ay Zomb-ay Zomb-ay-ay-ay.” Because of this repetition, anytime someone asks “Is is your head?” or some other variation, I am automatically stuck on a loop of “Zombie.”

More often than not, the phrase is a hand grenade my wife throws at me. She will wait until I am not expecting it, then boom, just say “In your head” knowing it will torture me until I hear the song or lobotomize myself. Since the latter is a bit final, I listen to the song to get it out of my head (Drink!), and that refreshes its home in my subconscious.

The fascinating thing about the song is its haunting, heavy tone while this woman has a very light voice to it and sings with a thick melancholy that fits the tone too perfectly as she sings about a revolution. It’s a poppy sounding song with a depressing message and melody. Thanks to that perfect storm of variables, it will be a song that really transcends generations. Some may never hear it until today (sorry, but it will be in your head [Drink!] now), and some began singing it when they saw the title “In Your Head” (Drink!) of this post.

UPDATE: It seems that instead of pressing submit, I pressed draft. I’ll have to revise a few things, but this was for Friday.  I’ll publish the other three tomorrow. Damn life getting in the way…

Cult of Personality

The phrase refers to a cultural figure who peoplei flock to and worship. Think David Koresh and Jim Jones, who both had literal cults, but who were so charismatic that their cults were built around them completely. Hitler had a HUGE cult of personality where people followed him to the brink of hell. Others are JFK, Obama, Justin Bieber, and a myriad of other people who may mean no malice, but their words and ideas are taken as the purest form of truth for their followers.

The phrase however is completely ruined to me thanks to the extremely well written song by Living Colour. The song cycles through various characteristics of a person who is worshiped by the masses. This is seen with one of the many phrases such as “I exploit you, still you love me.”

When the song opens with the guitar riff that repeats throughout the song, you are hooked pretty quickly. As that song builds, you are exposed to various ideas from the point of view of an idol. Lines like “I tell you 1 and 1 make 3,” and “You gave me power in god’s name,” all followed with a sampling of Kennedy saying, the very cultish, “Ask not what your country can do for you” bundles then entire concept into a very succinct message.

The song ruins the phrase “Cult of Personality” for me because of the method of pronunciation. Instead of saying it as written, the last word in the phrase is stretched out rhythmically to be person…ality. If you’ve heard the song, I think every time you read the phrase here you at least said it once in cadence with the song.

This all may have been an intentional decision though. Since the song is about a person leading people, it may have been their intention to break the phrasing of the words and repeat them throughout to forever associate that phrase with the song. I know the few times I see the phrase, I immediately think of the band. That’s longevity since the song came out before I was born.

Thus, ends today. I attached the video of the song in case you haven’t heard it. It’s definitely worth a listening.