Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Music and Daydreaming: The Symphony of Creation

I was reflecting today about the music I listen to and what I use it for. I listen to a lot of different types of music: Trance to either dream or to focus on a task (depending on the trance), rock, soundtracks, etc. I use music in a variety of ways, anywhere from the above to writing a blog post (currently listening to Untitled 1 by Sigur Ros, for example).

It's amazing what music can do. I occasionally start twitching in the middle of a daydream if it's fueled by music; I'm reminded of going to see "Star Wars: Episode 1" and twisting this way and that as the podracers fly through the canyon. With music, I can construct any scenario and it becomes five times better than daydreaming without music.

In one daydream, I'm Astan, an exiled nobody from an ice-laden continent who was cast from society because he believed in the forgotten god Ursus. Astan journeys across the land whilst Ursus instructs him to the use of his new power. As I gain power, I gain followers from groups of bandits that crossed my path and are now fragmented. And that's just one daydream.

In another, I'm Phoenix, a warrior sent by the thousand gods of Ishar (the heavens) to bring down an unknowing emperor who has fallen into the ways of the Grungrak (hell or chaos). The battle is between pure order and pure chaos, the way it was meant to be. But chaos wants to take both the plane of Isharia and Ishar as its own, thereby unbalancing the planes and casting the universe into darkness. My companion is Dire, a guardian silver bear sent with me who serves as a mount as well as a fellow warrior. My lover is Ayla, originally an assassin sent to kill me since I defied her emperor's elite army.

Yet again, I'm Cy. After an accident on the highway, my brain is severed from my body. It just so happens that the government will stop funding Nano, Inc. if they don't supply the Army with a "supersoldier" (Several jokes are made regarding this term). I become especially powerful since to all outward appearances, I'm no different. But because I wake up during the operation and feel the nanites reorganizing bone, muscle and organ structure, I'm always battling the line between true humanity (which would start a battle between nanites and body ending in death) or true autonomy (which would cause me to react without any trace of my human animal present). The battle is fiercest when my one-time girlfriend asks if "protecting the United States" means that I'm protecting the government or protecting its citizens.

Daydream #4 consists of me somehow increasing my brain's reaction time which slows everything down, creating all sorts of dilemmas for me to solve. I can't move at the same level as my brain is processing information which creates lag; when people talk to me, they appear slowed down.

Finally, daydream #5 gets to the heart of the matter. I somehow fall into a coma. My brain activity indicates that I'm doing something, but doctors are unable to find out what. That is until researchers state they can see images real-time. So they look into my brain and see my dreaming. My own virtual world that I've painstakingly created. They evaluate that I will slip into a deeper coma if I continue to use as much of my brain as I have and work against time to "connect" my brain to a server where they can interface with it. The problem? Every brain sees differently. They must see things from my perspective.

That's what I want to happen. I want people to see what's in my head, and I want to show them without having to be skilled at creating CGI or even art in general. I want to show this in as much detail as possible. Writing it helps but it cannot possibly convey what I dream up.

And music has a part of all of these daydreams; the ones that I've listed are just a few. I've dreamt about being a reclusive soldier forced into war when Russia and China were seized by an extremist third-party group and were forced into an ongoing war with the United States. I've dreamt about spearheading the Marijuana Reform group and being elected as Chairman of the new Drug Reform Office which would take over the DEA. I've dreamt about this and more, but I can't show any of it to people. Therein lies the source of my frustration.

Perhaps my future children or my children's children will have this chance, but it irks that it's denied to me. At least I have my music library, where I can play out my fantasies and imaginings perfectly.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Memories and Index Files

In Japan, researchers have already been able to show someone a word, then (using brainscans) recreate the image of the word on their screen. Granted, the image is a little fuzzy:

But the results are the same. It's really only a matter of time before they clarify the image and develop algorithms to handle color, odor, texture, even sound for the other senses of the human brain.

Which of course leads us to the discussion of a Virtual Reality. Not the one you see in labs like the one I work in, where "Virtual Reality" is like going to see a 3D movie, but an actual dreamlike state where the stimulus might end up traveling both ways. At first you may be only able to view what the output supplies. Eventually you might be able to send input in and create something like what you were thinking of.

It may sound far-fetched, but the brain is really a big, complex computer that we use a very, very small amount of. Processes of the brain are fascinating... how it receives and processes data, how it stores data in odd jumbles that our dreams sort out at night... the list goes on.

My area of interest however is the potential for "human indexing." Once we discover how information is encoded and stored, it's a short step to receiving that information or even calling out past information that's lingered in the brain.

Granted, your memories might have faded, but something tells me you could call up even the ones you buried long ago. And that leads in all sorts of directions. The one I choose to talk about? Indexing.

It's a tragedy when we lose a loved one. Our memories with them will never disappear, but they'll slowly be archived away in some dusty old corner of the brain until barely a whisper is left. This Virtual Reality brings an interesting view of what information computers could access, though. Yes, there will be people screaming about the lack of privacy, and that problem can be simply fixed by giving a person the option of "brain indexing" or not.

See, the way I'd figure brain indexing would work would be a simple 15-or-so-minute period where the computer asks you a question and your brain responds with all sorts of information regarding it. It shows the computer how you normally react and how you spontaneously react. The computer calculates the probability of such a reaction and fits it into your profile.

Eventually, your profile has so many variables that the data that you've collected about yourself is MASSIVE. You could keep this information to yourself or you could share it with the world; it all depends on how you view your life. Is it worth sharing? Even your deepest, darkest secrets?

But why stop at humans? Whenever I come home, I like to sit and watch my dog dream. It's one of those rare moments that brings a smile to everyone's face, no matter who you are. It tells me something, though. My dog's brain is processing what he's done that day or the day before or the year before and bringing it back for him to experience. What if this "brain indexing" could take not only his past but his present decisions and memories and form them into a complex profile? I know he's not going to live much longer, and I know it's going to tear me apart. If we were 300 years into the future, what I suggest might be possible. I know it won't happen even a few years from now... but eventually, there might be a chance for human and non-human animals to live together in their dreamworld.

The thought of leaving this world with a thumbprint of myself staying behind is a beautiful one. For the present... I can only dream.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Real Dopeheads

I've been debating marijuana reform all over the internet as well as to people I've just met. Recently I was having the "marijuana legalization" discussion with my parents. My mother laughed and said "People must think you're a real dopehead." I was puzzled. What did she mean? She explained that I was arguing to legalize marijuana. That must mean that I wanted it legalized so that I could use it.

I explained to her the reasons that I actually support marijuana legalization and how I managed to land in the "marijuana activist" role. She finally understood. She looked at me and said "I see, but other people will think the same thing that I do. That you're a 'dopehead.' A 'stoner.' A person that regularly uses cannabis."

I realized that what she said made sense. People had such a stereotypical view about the marijuana culture that being in any way associated with it meant that those same people would identify me as a user. I'm not a user of marijuana because it's an illegal drug right now (needless to say, I still speed on the highway even though THAT'S illegal). But I know that people would judge me differently if I were a regular cannabis user or had been arrested for the use of marijuana, and the last thing I need is people thinking that I only want marijuana legalized so that I can use it without the threat of the law.

Which is apparently what people think ANYWAY. I knew then that I had to explain why I had jumped into the marijuana legalization debate on the side that I did. I figure this blog is the best place of any to do so.

The first I ever encountered the cannabis law argument was when I had to sit through D.A.R.E's ineffectual courses as a kid. I didn't encounter the argument throughout middle and high school, but saw it resurface in college.

Then, one night, I was watching the History Channel (because there was absolutely NOTHING ELSE on) and the episode was about the history of marijuana prohibition. This sounded interesting, so I watched the entire hour-long episode and discovered some things that didn't fit right with my view of law. I hopped on the internet and took a look around. I discovered some very interesting arguments for marijuana legalization that fell right in the face of the current drug laws.

I was intrigued.

And then... I was exposed. To the lives of people who had run afoul of this law. I watched interview after interview of someone who smoked a joint after a long day and was thrown in jail for three years, never to get a decent job because of that spot on his record; or the interview about the man and wife who were smoking pot and had their door broken in by the DEA and their dog (a peaceful yellow lab) killed by one of the DEA officers shooting him right in the head (if anyone knows anything about me, they'll be sure to tell you that the dog part was the most outrageous thing that happened).

Charlie Lynch was the final straw.

For those who would rather read my description than watch the video, Owen Beck was an athletic kid who found out he had bone cancer and had to have his leg amputated. As he was undergoing chemotherapy, Beck was also introduced to a new incredibly painful sensation: Phantom limb pain.

As if this wasn't bad enough, Owen was basically a walking medicine cabinet. He was taking several drugs at one time to stop the pain and nausea he was feeling from the chemo and the phantom limb pain.

They did absolutely nothing.

So one day, Owen and his parents decided to try something new: medical marijuana. Good thing a dispensary had opened up nearby: Charles Lynch's new medical marijuana dispensary, a facility that before it opened was toured by the mayor and other city council members. They cut the ribbon, shook hands with Lynch and approved of his dispensary. Owen and his parents headed to the dispensary to try medical marijuana. Owen had to go with his parents because he was only 17 at the time. His parents would have to be present to approve a purchase for a minor.

The Becks came to the facility several more times to buy medical marijuana for their ailing son. Lynch would sometimes use his own money to buy the medical marijuana for the family because of his kind, sympathetic nature.

Medical marijuana did things for Owen that he never could have imagined. Under the pharmaceutical drugs that he was taking, Owen said he would "dull out" under the drugs doctors gave him, but that marijuana made him feel "normal" and allowed him to "do the things he needed to do during the day." Owen was and is not alone, as thousands of people need marijuana because the other drugs that they're given to combat pain and nausea either don't work, cause allergic reactions or conflict with one another. Owen's appetite also drastically improved by just using marijuana.

That's when things turned ugly. As Charles Lynch recounts (almost breaking down in the interview), he was arrested by fully armed DEA agents who were invited by the sheriff of the county to raid Lynch's house and medical dispensary for any marijuana. Charles was handcuffed and held in a federal detention facility.

Charles Lynch is out on bail currently, but is going to be sentenced on March 23rd. He's looking at a probable 100-year sentence in jail.

Yeah. That's justice, all right. Let's lock up a guy who helped a kid get through cancer and phantom limb pain. Sounds like we're heading in the right direction, right?!

Is it fair to arrest 872,000 Americans a YEAR, 750,000 of those for nonviolent possession? Is it fair to send those people to live with rapists and murderers for a couple years, then stop them from ever possibly getting a decent job?

Does that sound like justice to you? Isn't there anyone else who is inflamed by these obsolete laws held to by zealous, ignorant Drug Enforcement Agents?

Here are the facts.

Marijuana is not addictive. It's a mental addiction, meaning that some people with addicted personalities might abuse cannabis. That also means that those same people might abuse caffeine or even video games in the same fashion. Physically addictive drugs are those drugs that contain a substance which hooks people to using more, like tobacco, for instance.

Marijuana does NOT kill brain cells. That is a MYTH. The "study" that Reagan quoted whenever he could attempted to prove that marijuana killed brain cells. For this, the scientists working on the project strapped gas masks onto monkeys and poured cannabis smoke into it. This study had one major flaw: oxygen. You could argue that any substance that doesn't contain enough oxygen can kill brain cells (which is why marijuana isn't smoked by just inhaling smoke, but a mixture of cannabis smoke and oxygen). Basically, these scientists were strangling monkeys for five minutes each day. Was it the marijuana that killed brain cells? No. Was it the lack of oxygen for five minutes? I'll let you figure that one out.

Marijuana is NOT a gateway drug. This is another ludicrous myth that seemed to originate with the propaganda camp film "Reefer Madness" in the 1930's (as ridiculous as the movie is, people believed every word of it. Some of the myths presented as true in the movie are still widely-held beliefs today). People don't try marijuana and have an urge to try harder drugs. There are many cannabis users who don't even drink alcohol or smoke tobacco, believing that those drugs are more harmful than marijuana. Looks like they're right, too.

Zero people in the entire history of the United States have ever died directly from cannabis. That's not to say that someone wasn't smoking laced cannabis or driving while high and did something stupid, but rather to say that it's impossible to overdose on marijuana. Literally. Impossible. That's right. It's even possible to overdose on caffeine (8,500 people a year die from caffeine overdoses and caffeine's effects on people with cardiovascular problems).

Marijuana isn't harmless. No psychoactive drug has a total lack of problems associated with it. But marijuana is SUBSTANTIALLY less harmful than even caffeine.

Marijuana made $14 BILLION last year in California, despite the raids by the DEA. Predictions of taxation range anywhere from $105 million to $1.4 billion made by the state government to tax and regulate marijuana. The State of Michigan's government would make ~$32 million off such a law.

I found this useful FAQ somewhere on the internet, and though I don't know who the author is, it's an incredibly useful look at some of the questions raised about marijuana use and prohibition:


Debating Marijuana Policy: The most common arguments against ending cannabis prohibition are as easy to refute as they are to enumerate:
1. "Marijuana makes people high."

Yes, and so do prayer and oxygen, is that bad? People get high on nature, "high on life," "high on God," high on chocolate, coffee, beer, tobacco -- even TV, exercise and meditation alter your consciousness. Watching television is the biggest escape from reality of them all. Who gave prohibitionists the power to dictate what everyone else can and cannot do for fun? Why does the bloated prison industry lobby to criminalize a harmless activity enjoyed by millions of Americans?
The core issues are personal choice and responsibility. Cannabis consumers are seeking the same respect and fundamental rights as anybody else, which is what they deserve. Neither the Constitution nor the Bible forbids cannabis use. The Bible states point blank that God gave us "every seed bearing herb" to use, and saw that it was good. The Declaration of Independence affirms our right to "the pursuit of happiness." The US Constitution Ninth Amendment states that "the enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." Only interstate commerce in cannabis is under the control of the federal government (Article 1 section 8), and so homegrown cannabis does not rightfully come under federal supervision. The laws against cannabis are an attack against the gifts of God/nature and the rule of law. No matter how you feel about people "getting high," these other principles are too important to allow government to violate our personal rights.
So if you don't think people should get high, it is your right to not get high and your right to discourage others to not get high, but that does not give any person or government the right to abuse the rights of people who feel otherwise. And to wage a war on cannabis users while society promotes alcohol and tolerates tobacco is hypocritical and immoral.

2. "More people will use it if it's legal. We already have so much trouble with alcohol, tobacco and bad driving; why make things worse?"

Perhaps there will be an increase in cannabis use if it is re-legalized, as it has been throughout most of human history. Perhaps that will cause some problems, although we believe that it will make a more healthy, honest and integrated society. Nonetheless, the financial savings from ending the hunting down, arrest, prosecution and incarceration of cannabis consumers will more than offset any costs associated with its use; it costs only a fraction as much per year to give people treatment as to imprison them. That saves money and helps people who need it. And that is good for everybody.
Moreover, cannabis has hundreds of known medical uses, one of which is helping people 'step down' from dependency on alcohol and hard drugs. Given the option, some people will switch to using cannabis rather than drinking for relaxation and fun, as it doesn't cause hangovers the next day and it causes fewer behavioral problems. Adults who smoke it are generally law-abiding, peaceful, and contributing members of society. In fact, they often can be some of the nicest people you meet. The vast majority consume it on their own time in the privacy of their homes, after work or on weekends.
Alcohol often leads to aggressive behavior and reckless driving. Like tobacco, alcohol has serious, harmful health consequences. But if you think we have a drinking problem today, you should learn about the "Roaring Twenties" Prohibition Era, when competing liquor companies sent carloads of gangsters out with machine guns for drive-by shootings. Violent crime got so bad that the American people passed the 21st Amendment to end Prohibition and legitimize the underground economy. Society set an age limit and has learned to regulate and cope with alcohol use and to minimize the harms associated with it.
Advertising for pharmaceutical drugs, alcohol and tobacco pepper our newspapers, magazines and airwaves. Some 500,000 people a year die from tobacco and alcohol, from 10,000 to 100,000 per year die from legal pharmaceutical drugs; but cannabis is a different matter entirely. Not one person has ever died from smoking cannabis in medical history. Many societies have accepted cannabis use for thousands of years. Certainly, America can live with it -- in fact, it already is. Let's just recognize the reality.

2. "People will be driving under the influence."

People already drive under the influence, and we certainly don't recommend it, but nor should you drive when using common medicines like antihistamines, or if you are too tired, angry or stressed out. No one should ever drive if they are not fully alert and capable of doing so. Some people are just bad drivers, no matter how sober they are. The most efficient way to control reckless driving is through direct observation and impairment testing based on driving behavior and vehicle safety, not random searches.
The latest dictate by the Drug Czar is to outlaw "drugged driving." It is Walters' plan to criminalize people not for driving impaired or even under the influence, but for having consumed cannabis at any time (except his political cronies, or course). The tests he advocates do not determine whether someone is impaired, but they will show if someone consumed cannabis over the prior few weeks. So, it would not tell if someone is driving poorly or even if they consumed cannabis just before getting behind the wheel. This is a reckless and misguided policy that would ruin people's lives for no good reason. It is completely discriminatory and unfounded. If someone gets behind the wheel of a car, and is driving recklessly, he or she should be held accountable for that and taken off the road.
People have learned through public education campaigns that drinking and driving don't mix. While studies show that people who consume cannabis and drive do not pose a substantial risk for accidents (people tend to be more cautious and drive more slowly after they smoke), they also need to be aware of the fact that drinking alcohol plus smoking cannabis does not improve driving. In fact, people should not drink, smoke and drive, as smoking cannabis does not mitigate the effects of alcohol.

3. "Ending marijuana prohibition would 'send the wrong message' - that we condone drug use."

The Drug War is not about sending messages: It's about sending people to prison. And prison cannot "rehabilitate" patriotic Americans who believe that marijuana prohibition is both unconstitutional and immoral: all it can do is abuse and alienate them. Society might place some reasonable regulations and restrictions on its use, as we do for alcohol and tobacco. However, it is criminal for politicians to lock people away for it. In a free country, the message should be to wait until adulthood, use common sense, take responsibility for your actions, and respect the personal freedom and privacy of others, not locks and bars for those who disagree.
A better message for young people would be that there are things in life that require a certain degree of maturity and responsibility before engaging in them. While driving, sex, marriage, voting, drinking alcohol, and serving in the military (to name a few) are not appropriate for minors, they will have the opportunity to choose to engage in these activities or not when they reach a certain age, as a matter of personal choice. Further, people learn that there are appropriate circumstances when use is condoned, and times that are inappropriate. The same message could be applied to using cannabis.

4. "Some people can't cope with marijuana use."

That is true; about 10% of Americans have addictive personalities or contra-indications and so they might want to avoid it. But what about the rest of us? Why should we be punished? Cannabis is not for everybody. Some people don't like its effects. Very few claim that their use is problematic. Making it legal will help us to identify these people and reach out to them. They should have the social support they need to stop using it and have treatment available to them if they are having problems stopping.
Everyone has the right to say "no" to marijuana: But the 90% of adults who can control their appetites also have a fundamental right to say "yes," if they so desire. The vast majority of consumers use cannabis in an appropriate, responsible manner that enhances their lives. They should have the same rights and held to the same standards in society as their alcohol and tobacco-consuming peers.

5. Marijuana smokers lack motivation.

Blaming pot is a cop out. The Beatles wrote many of their finest tunes while being quite open about smoking pot. Vice president Al Gore used cannabis when he was in college, as did lots of our elected officials, and they turned out fine. Millions of successful professionals and working people use cannabis and lead fulfilling lives.
Most people prefer to smoke cannabis for relaxation or creative inspiration during leisure hours &emdash; not when they have work to do. When a person loses motivation, there are many factors to consider. They need understanding and help. Arresting them and putting them in prison only makes matters worse. Most cannabis smokers are highly motivated and productive citizens. Let's not ruin lives with hysterical laws that do nothing to solve the real problems facing society.
If it were not for microscopic traces of cannabis in our systems, nobody could tell cannabis consumers from the rest of society. They are good, hard workers -- until they get fired over a positive drug test. Then they are stripped of our jobs, families, homes, driver's licenses, reputations, educational and career opportunities, and face fines and lengthy prison terms. And you have the nerve to blame that on cannabis? No, it is the result of anti-cannabis bigotry and bad laws.
Just look at the people who are out of the closet; some are great achievers, but most of us are just regular people, like the rest of society. They do their jobs, pay their taxes, join the PTA, watch TV, go to church and shop at the local stores like everybody else. It is important for society to know that what most pot smokers want is to be taxed, regulated and left alone to make their contributions to society, like everyone else.

6. "Marijuana is so much stronger than it used to be."

That's not true, as explained below. But even were it so, that is a positive benefit rather than a negative. Many people prefer stronger cannabis, so they can smoke less of it to achieve a desired effect. Some people prefer weaker cannabis for a milder effect. A legal, regulated market in cannabis will offer consumers choices of grades and quality of marijuana, so they will choose the kind they prefer. The nice thing about smoking or vaporizing cannabis is that you can stop at whatever level you feel is appropriate. Potency is just a factor in how much you consume to achieve that effect.
Now, let's get technical. Cannabis is mostly made up of cellulose, like any other plant. Only a tiny molecule found in the resin secreted in the flowering tips and upper leaves of certain plants has the ability to make people high, and that is THC. The smaller the portion of the plant that is tested, the higher the percentage of THC can be; for example, one tetra-hydro-cannabinol molecule is 100%THC. Therefore any figure can be proposed, if the sample is small enough and properly cleaned of other matter. That is what the above claim attempts to do. THC was identified in the 1960s, but it was not tracked until the 1980s, when some stored, old marijuana was tested and found to still contain about 1% THC in the flowers after many years. But it deteriorates with age, so the percentage was misleading. Studies on fresh cannabis began in the mid-1980s. Marijuana has averaged about 3% THC for the past 15 years, according to government reports published by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). More potent cannabis contained between 5% to 10% THC in the flowers, averaging 7.5%. The average potency today is still around 3%, with on the high end at 10% at most.
Until recently, cannabis was only used in concentrated forms -- hashish, kif, and charas -- rather than smoked as a dried herb. So in reality, it has traditionally been as strong or stronger than the stronger varieties of cannabis that the government claims. Cannabis is not a man made drug: It's a natural herb. Some people like it, others don't. Different kinds of plants have different effects. There has always been very strong cannabis around. Hashish resin is five times more potent than regular cannabis, and people have smoked it for thousands of years with no problems. Prohibition has encouraged domestic growers to cultivate stronger strains that bring in higher prices for their efforts. The net effect is that the potency of the consumed dose is still about the same as it always has been throughout history; the minor deviations are balanced by the consumers' tolerance of its effects.

7. "What about the children?"

A very legitimate concern. Prohibition glamorizes drugs and encourages children to experiment with them, as shown by recent statistics on adolescent drug use. The "forbidden fruit" phenomenon makes some activities attractive to young people who are testing their limits. There are higher use rates among adolescents in the US where it is completely prohibited than in the Netherlands where there is legal access for people 18 years and older.
What kind of world are we making for our children: One full of prisons, secret police and repressive laws that tell them to spy on their own parents and family. Instead, let's build them a world that respects each individual while it teaches them to work together for the common good in the exercise of freedom.
We need to change. Our youth must learn about personal responsibility. For society to send the right message about drug use, we must have practical and consistent drug policies supported by honest educational programs. They need to have the facts based on truth, not hysteria and fear, in order to make responsible choices in their lives. We must set a reasonable age of consent for cannabis with respect for adult rights. When they are old enough, they will have the right to choose to use cannabis or not.
Children should not be drug tested in order to participate in school activities. Drug testing is antithetical to developing a sense of trust and personal responsibility. They should be encouraged to participate in their schools and communities. If they are having problems with substance abuse, let's help them -- not stigmatize and ban them. Alienation will do more towards ensuring failure than bringing them into the fold.
Young people say that they can get marijuana easier than alcohol where they must show ID to buy it. An unregulated, black market does not prevent access to marijuana for young people. It enables them to obtain it unimpeded from people motivated to sell it for profit to anyone who wants it. We must bring the growers and vendors into the open so they can operate within the scope of the law under realistic terms of compliance, to put the black market out of business. Legitimate sellers of alcohol can lose their licenses or otherwise be penalized if they sell to underage people. The same would apply to sellers of cannabis in a regulated and controlled market.
Industrial hemp will help provide children with a healthy environment and a prosperous economy to live in. Throughout history, hemp has been a help to our human society. Now it is time once again to give hemp a chance.

8. But Walters, McCaffrey, Ashcroft and other Drug Warriors say that marijuana is bad, so they must have a reason.

They don't know what they're talking about. These characters are generally unfamiliar with the government's own research -- or else they are simply lying because the facts show that what they say about cannabis is untrue. You can decide whether their intentions are good or bad, but the consequences of their lies are bad, indeed.
These men have never smoked marijuana, and they do not associate with cannabis consumers. We know people who use it, and we know that they are by and large good people who live peaceful and productive lives. The distorted image and hysteria that marijuana prohibitionists present to society are a disgrace. The fact that they try to overturn the will of voters in regard to medical marijuana is un-American and anti-democratic. Those who twist the facts achieve twisted ends. That's why you need to get involved in stopping the madness and ending the war on cannabis users.

Who are the real "dopeheads?" People who don't understand the argument for marijuana legalization. People who still stick to the stereotypical beliefs that were generated by racially paranoid Americans years ago. Are you one of those people? Look it up. Educate yourself. View the injustices that occur because our marijuana laws are 80 years obsolete.

Fight the good fight. Legalize it.

More information can be found at:

And if you have any questions about marijuana, post it here.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Job Market and My Personal Views

So I was recently watching a tv show with my parents when my dad confronted me about all the posts I was making about marijuana legalization. He warned me that companies would check my personal information, including Facebook and any easily-linked accounts, and that they would surely see that I had argued in favor of marijuana legalization.

In short, he warned me that people might not hire me based upon my personal views. I was outraged.

I mean, if some manager was anti-gay and he saw that you were a proponent of gay marriage, would that be grounds to keep you out of his job? It would be different if I had actually made a claim to using marijuana... but I haven't. I've instead focused on the economic, environmental, judicial and health benefits of marijuana legalization in a structured, intellectual argument that should appeal to anyone who uses rational thought.

But you know what? I would rather not be hired by a company that thought my views on marijuana legalization weren't conducive to work ethic. I would rather turn away from that company because companies today should take in people regardless of what they believe in.

See, what you believe in has its place in the workplace, but only as a means of creating social discussion. Whether you believe that women or minorities should be kept out of a job based on their race or gender, or if you believe that the war in Iraq was wrong, it shouldn't matter. What should matter is how you act. How you've led your life. Are you a proponent of marijuana legalization? Shouldn't matter. Were you caught with marijuana, which is an illegal substance by current law? SHOULD matter. 

What are we getting ourselves into if we're judging people by what they believe in? It shouldn't matter what you believe in. Hell, it creates a healthy, diverse work environment even if the person believes in something considered repulsive by today's standards (and as you'll see from other blogs on other sites, 40% of Americans want marijuana legalized... but that's not the point). 

If you're hiring people based on their personal beliefs, you're not a company worth getting a job at, in my humble, young opinion.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Sharing Music and the Bizzare Cultural Norms Surrounding it

My sister decided to share a band called Starf***er with me. At first, I was dubious. Saying one is a fan of band called Starf***er somehow conveys the impression that the same person also watches hardcore porn in their basement. Nonetheless, I listened. I closed my eyes and let myself drift as the calming music washed over me, and as I did, I wondered about the whole music sharing thing.

I mean, what is the protocol for someone sharing music? Are they supposed to stand next to the speakers with a smile on their face or just be neutral? Do they look at the person they're sharing the music with? What's the correct social stance there? I always feel awkward sharing music, especially if it's Electronica. Do I stand near the iPod or do I go sit down? If I sit down, do I sit down near the person or opposite them? Should I leave the room altogether and let that person absorb the music on their own?

And what about being the sharee? Am I supposed to tilt my head back and shut my eyes to listen to the music fully? Do I stare at the person who's sharing the music with me or avert my eyes to the corner of the room? Would it be considered rude if I kept reading my book?

So many questions, and none of them have an easy answer. I'm pretty sure that even the most socially adept have a hard time with this (that is, if those people share music at all).

And what about afterwards? The sharer will undoubtedly ask, "What do you think?" How do I respond to that? Does "It was good" sound too much like I didn't really like it but wanted to make the sharer feel good? What if I seriously enjoyed it? Do I put more emphasis in "good" so as to say "It was GOOD?"

It's dizzying if you think about it for too long. Which reminds me... I have to get back to listening to their song Isabella of Castile.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Legalization of Marijuana and the Blind Eye the Obama Administration Has Turned Regarding It

It's sad to realize that in this administration of supposed "change," there hasn't been talk at all of the one issue on people's minds: the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana. On Change.org, the idea won a total of about 15,000 votes with 4,000 added on from the subject "End the War on Drugs." On Change.gov, the idea has around 70,000 points and is the current leader of BOTH websites in votes. After the voting was over on Change.org, the results were randomized for some odd reason. Marijuana was the #1 pick of the people, but it lost its chance to be recognized as that #1 pick due to the randomization of the top 10 ideas submitted to the Obama administration. As well, no mention of marijuana legalization can be found on either the front page of Change.org or the front page of Change.gov. Fishy.  

It seems odd that the administration would either ignore or be opposed to such an idea without giving any specific evidence as to the problems associated with legalizing marijuana. There are plenty of good reasons:  

Over 800,000 non-violent prisoners incarcerated for smoking a joint, for instance, would be gradually pardoned. The cost of keeping those people in jail would obviously go down with their departure. Also, by avoiding jail in the first place, those people have less of a chance to meet criminals, have a permanent mark on their record and sadly turn to a life of crime.  

Hemp can be used for a variety of things: textiles, biofuel... even FOOD. Hemp could increase our exports, due to the fact that no one besides Amsterdam has even considered legalizing marijuana. We'd have a leg up on the countries around us, and after the hemp boom, we'd come out with some serious economic gains.  

Marijuana is still thought to be one of the best drugs for patients undergoing chemotherapy. Not only that, but other diseases as well whose medicines might cause all sorts of nasty side-effects. Cannabis has been recommended by several doctors as a drug that reduces pain and nausea.  

The government's good at taxing products. Why not marijuana? Raise the tax on marijuana to around the tax for tobacco. The government is poised to make some serious money from such an economic plan. Furthermore, the government wouldn't have to keep fighting marijuana (as much... there'd obviously still be dying criminal groups desperate to make money off cannabis). Did you know that of the "War on Drugs," marijuana consumes about 4/5 of that time and money?  

All of these reasons and we still haven't heard a peep from the Obama administration. It's as if they're terrified (or worse, indecisive) about the situation.  

We wanted a new government, a government that took the ideas we the people put forth. So far, the Obama administration seems to be doing a remarkably lackluster job, especially by hiring people on its staff that are vehemently opposed to marijuana legalization.  

But maybe I'm just pessimistic. Maybe change will start to form after Obama's inaugurated. All we can do now is cross our fingers...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Pneumonia Week - WoW

So this week I've been staying at my dorm due to my diagnosis of "walking pneumonia," an unpleasant and week-long disease (week-long thanks to horse-pill antibiotics shortening its lifespan). While this does make life somewhat limiting and boring, I've had a chance to actually work on my projects and get them done and over with. And, I've had more than enough time to play World of Warcraft all day long.

I've begun to phase into my former "hardcore" WoW life, the phase that brought on such priceless statements as "No thanks, I can't go to the movies, guys. I've got a Molten Core raid tonight." And who could forget (me, addressing my family around the dinner table) "So I totally just got this awesome new purple from MC last night. Not only does it have stam for raid reliability but also spell haste, so I don't have to worry too much in AV." Who could forget indeed? (Not me. I've learned to hush up about WoW during dinner)

People have asked me over my brief, 4 year addiction to that soul-sucking game why, WHY is it so addicting? "Don't you just hit the maximum level and the game's over?" they ask. I'm going to let all of you in on a little secret (WoW players, silently chuckle and weep as we go through why our lives are so hopelessly taken by this piece of software).

How WoW addicts you:

First, you start out an innocent, naive level 1 character. You only have a couple of abilities, but as you level, more and more abilities make their way into your spellbook every couple levels or so whether you be Warrior or Warlock (my personal favorite). At level 10, many of the abilities belonging to classes begin showing up. Hunters get to train pets to help them on their quests. Warlocks get demons. Paladins are able to resurrect allies and friends. You also get this shiny new tab on your User Interface bar that says "Talents." Whatever could that mean? Well, every time you level, you're able to spend points in various "trees" that give you additional bonuses, spells and abilities.

This is Blizzard's first step: to make sure you play all the way to 80 (yes, there are 80 levels), Blizzard introduces not just spells and talents to get you moving, but also fairly attainable "baby-step" goals like getting a mount at 40 (I believe it has moved down since last I leveled), or an "epic," faster mount at level 60. And then a flying mount at 70, and finally a custom mechanical mount at 80. Lest you think mounts are the only thing besides new spells and talents that you achieve at higher and higher levels, think again. As your level goes up, better and better weapons and armor become available. And some zones (the areas where players actually "play") are only available at certain levels, so you must achieve a certain level just to BE there.

"Ok, we get that part," I can already hear people saying. "But what makes WoW so addicting AFTER you reach your highest level?" Well, there are multiple answers to that. Let's get started.

First of all, Blizzard expects you to make friends in order to raid higher and higher level dungeons. We're talking 25-man raiding. That's 25 people who have dedicated their time for a 5-hour run through the same old stuff just to have a small chance at receiving a glorious blue or purple drop. Before I go any further, I need to explain color drops.

Grey - Items of this color are not useful in any way and can be sold to vendors for money.
White - Items of this color are useful to some but generally not very good to equip. You usually are decked out in white armor at the start of the game.
Green - Items of this color indicate something special about the weapons or armor that you should take note of. Whether it boosts your statistics (health, mana, attacking power, etc.) or just does more damage than ordinary white weapons, it's generally accepted as being better than white. You'll mostly find these materials dropping from "mobs" (enemy Non-Player Characters) around the world.
Blue - Items of THIS color indicate that you just picked up a pretty good item. Better than green (in most cases, although Blizzard screwed with that when they came out with their first expansion), you find these items only rarely dropping from "mobs" and at the end of long quests. You can also find those items dropping in dungeons that you're raiding.
Purple - When you get a purple, expect to jump in happiness. Purples are generally much better than either blues or greens (again, Blizzard's mistake flipped this around with their first expansion) and are highly sought after. Remember, green, blue and purple items can also be crafted, but at a generally increasingly high cost. 
Orange - If you EVER get a hold of an orange item, you will be most likely one out of an entire server. Orange are so rare, they're expected to blow everything that you have in your inventory away. If you come across an orange item, you will be the envy of hundreds of thousands of players who will never ever be able to equip that item for their own use.

That was fun. A little off-topic, but fun. Ok, so you're raiding 5 hours through a dungeon just to "roll" on an item that you desperately want. In many cases, your roll will be much less than the victor, and you'll have to grudgingly congratulate them all while looking sadly at your Green item sitting forlornly in your inventory. 5 hours gone, and for what? Well, at least you're gaining more experience in that dungeon. Maybe you'll get it next time.


So Blizzard pulls you in by forcing you to make 25 friends and going on raids on the off-chance that you might get lucky. Many of these people will make a weekly run schedule, and (obviously) the only time anyone really has "free" is the weekend. "Welcome to our guild!" they'll say. "We're running Black Temple or the new Naxxramus or Utgarde Keep every weekend starting at 7pm on Saturday and ending at around 4am on Sunday. Wanna join?" At first, it sounds good. One weekend just to get your character even better equipped. But then they expect you to be there every weekend. And bit by bit, your social life falls away until you're forced to explain to people that you can't go out with them because you have an obligation to people you've never seen face-to-face to play a videogame for 6-8 hours straight. It may sound nuts now, but just wait. Veteran WoW players will back me up on that one.

But surely you'll eventually get all of the "new" weapons and armor, right? Wrong. I mean, some guilds of players who do NOTHING else than sit in their basements playing WoW will get to the highest level and the highest armor and weapons within one week of new content. Don't argue, it's happened so many times it's disgusting. But you, an everyday player who still has commitments to fulfill (a job, for example, although I've heard of people losing their jobs over this ridiculous game) will not EVER have the newest weapons and armor.

Let's say you're raiding the new instance. You have 4 new pieces of armor from that instance because you've sold your soul to Blizzard for 3 months straight. All of the sudden, Blizzard releases a "patch" (a piece of software that fixes bugs that crop up in WoW with new content) that has 2 or 3 new dungeons. Suddenly, you're going from those old dungeons you slaved away at month after month to new dungeons where, yep, you guessed it, you're going to slave away at month after month just to get your new weapons and armor THAT YOU JUST GOT. What does this do? Well, it helps you run those dungeons more efficiently and kill other players more easily. It allows you to step out into the city of your choice (ingame, of course. You won't be going anywhere once you've installed WoW) and strut down the main halls while other, less fortunate gamers stare at your gleaming armor in awe. Or at least, that's what you'll dream about at night. That's right. You'll start talking in WoW, dreaming in WoW, and thinking in WoW. In a short while, your closest family members will have no idea what you're talking about (unless, of course, your entire family plays WoW. My god, I've seen it and the memories never fade.)

Blizzard's latest ploy is perhaps their most fiendish EVER. Achievements. So you're looking pretty good in all that new armor you got, and you look like you could handle anything that Blizzard can throw at you, when suddenly you discover the "ACHIEVEMENTS" tab. Here, you browse through meaningless achievements that give points when they've been completed. Some of these achievements come with titles, others with actual ingame rewards. You may think you're all that, but you only have 50 points out of 500. What are you doing, just sitting there? You should be out fulfilling ultimately meaningless achievement "quests" that make a cool noise and flash on your screen when you get them. I know how addicting they are because I just got a few. "Make Love, not Warcraft," when I hugged a dead enemy before he released his spirit from his rapidly-cooling corpse. Then I started browsing through the achievements. "Oh, I can do that one. And that one's not too hard." Blizzard has done it again.

There are so many aspects of the game that are addicting in their own right (professions, the economy, and person-vs-person combat) that I don't have time to get into. All I really need to do is let you know that Blizzard, each month off subscription fees alone makes enough money to make a game on the scale of World of Warcraft. That's right. EACH MONTH. Think about that for awhile.

I've seen people who've thrown their lives away for WoW. My old karate teacher's girlfriend threw away her Ph.D, job and ultimately her boyfriend to play WoW. Yeah, it's that serious. Luckily, I have a WoW break built into my system, and I'll get sick of WoW for months at a time before diving right back in again.

I've been playing World of Warcraft since the beta of the ORIGINAL GAME debuted 4 and a half years ago.

I'm Bear, and I'm a WoW addict. Hopefully, my post explains why.