Prexil the Demonalator

Prexil the Demonalator smiled as he walked along the path in the Great Da forest. His loose, clinging black clothes hid and revealed his androgynous form by turns as he took his leisurely pace. Though he considered himself male–as he truly was at one point–his body was hermaphroditic, a consequence of his many dalliances with demons. It was a thing he did not consider displeasing, considering its various advantages.

He maneuvered his wide-brimmed, witchy black hat to a jaunty angle, adjusted the long black feather which scintillated with eldritch colors, and began whistling an eerie tune which caused the surrounding wildlife to go silent and the wind to become still.

After few moments a sonorous voice inquired, “You called?”

Prexil, suddenly motionless, peered to the side, the smile remaining upon his face. With a soft voice at the same time melodious and threatening, he commanded, “Show yourself.”

From behind a tree stepped a large, muscular man with dull, black skin. Completely hairless and naked, he had shining, black eyes and a handsome face. His fangs glinted as he said, “As you wish.”

“No too close,” Prexil warned in a sing-song voice one might use with a child. The deodand’s smile was replaced by a look of fear, and it took a step back. “Of course, Master Prexil,” it said, “I would not dream of molesting you.”

“It is well that you do not because that dream would cause you great grief,” he continued as if singing. “My flesh is not yours to consume, and I fear you would find the effect of its ingestion most disagreeable. But, of course, I’d never let you get that close, as experience has taught you.”

The deodand grimaced, “It was… my mistake, for which I have long since repented. I find it wounding and unfair that you continue to mistrust my motives.”

“Your motive is to survive, and why should I begrudge you that? I do not. But I know that given the slightest chance, you would try to kill and eat me, though I have warned you against the results, which would be excruciating, unavoidable, and mortifying. But, that brain in your guts is more powerful than the brain in your head, I’m afraid. Or perhaps you simply disbelieve me, favoring the suspicion that I hope to deceive you to save my skin… which is a plausible notion. But it is nuncupatory, and I am not here to discuss the peculiarities of your appetites.”

The deodand shrugged, almost apologetically.

Prexil looked away into the air, thoughtful for a moment, and the deodand shifted its weight from leg to leg in uncertainty, making his monstrous form seem almost comical.

While still distracted, Prexil asked dreamily, “Have you done as I have instructed?” He then peered askance at the deodand.

“Indeed I have. And I trust that you will keep your end of the bargain?”

“You will find, friend monster, that there are two kinds of demonalators: those who are true to their words, and those who end eternally tormented in places of which it is best not to speak. As I am here speaking with you, you may be assured that I am of the former.”

“Just so, master,” replied the deodand. “The one you seek has cloistered himself in a ruined temple North of here in the Fer Aquila mountains. He is perverse. He ensares his brother and sister deodands by way of magic and forces them to play some kind of… game.”

Prexil raised one of his arched, thin black eyebrows, looked piercingly at the creature, and asked, “Game? A hunting game?”

“No, master. I said perverse. Hunting would be natural. It is a contrivance involving a board and small colored pieces. He makes them move the pieces about according to a set of rules which he may have himself fabricated. I do not know. By great stealth, I barely escaped being bewitched and captured. He chased me, master, for a long while, and it is only by my superior cunning that I eluded him.”

Prexil’s eyes became dreamy once more, and he muttered, “Interesting… a deodand using magic and playing games upon a board…”

The deodand began nervously shifting its weight from foot to foot again, and said, “Another thing, master, he has given himself a name.”

“Which is?”

“Tet Reygacs.”

Prexil continued to look into the air as his mouth moved, as if tasting the name.

“Master,” the deodand said, “I have done as you have asked. You said you would reward me.”

“Indeed,” answered Prexil with an easy smile and gesture, “I promised you freedom from all obligations, and you shall have it.”

Whispering a few syllables and a making a flowing, gracious gesture, Prexil fanned out his fingers, spraying forth from each rays of scintillating colors, which burned through the deodand as it screamed and widened its eyes at the betrayal.

With several small, smoking holes and a strong odor of grilled flesh, the hulk fell over with a thud, spreading a small gust of dust and leaves on the forest path, and moved no more.

Prexil took a deep breath, sighed, and said to the corpse, “Let it not be said that Prexil the Demonalator does not keep his promises. No obligation will ever hinder you again.”

He slapped the dust from his garments, straightened them, and headed North, again whistling his weird tune, which made even the nearby pelgranes silent and afraid.

Epic Paleo Meat Bars

Epic makes these snack/meal replacement bars composed mostly of dried “non-cured” meat.

The meat is cured using celery powder which has naturally occurring nitrites in it, which are curing agents.  I wish manufacturers would stop the bullshit with this “no nitrites added” claim.

Anyway, it’s cured meat, like jerky.  And each bar has a jerky-like taste and consistency.

Overall, the texture of the meats has been dry and not tender, but not as tough as jerky.  Some of the bars come apart when you bite into them, and you quickly realize that this bar is composed of small, individual pieces of meat which have been compressed together.

The bar that had the best texture was lamb, which was fairly soft.  I enjoyed the texture and taste of the bar.  The worst so far was the turkey, which was dry and obviously particulated.

I got a sampler, and I’ll go through my experiences with each.

Bison: Bacon Cranberry

The bar was a bit dry, and a little tough.  The taste was decent.  The overall taste was sweet and savory, and I enjoyed the cranberries, which were whole and not at all bitter.  You can taste the bacon.  The overall flavor, however, like with most of these bars was very “jerky-ish.”  I don’t think this is one that I would purchase again.  5 out of 10.

Bison: Habanero Cherry

Same texture as above.  The cherry flavor is mostly sweet and mild.  You can barely recognize it as cherry.  I would have preferred more tartness.  The tartness of cherry is almost non-existent.  Also, you can barely perceive the habanero, which to me was very disappointing.  I know habanero is too hot for most people, but I like it.  The concept of the bar is wonderful.  The combination of cherry, habanero, and bison sounds awesome.  The delivery, however, is lackluster.  4 out of 10.

Turkey: Almond Cranberry

Driest texture of any of the bars, a little tough but not really.  It is dry in your mouth, and the inclusion of nuts doesn’t help that.  The flavor isn’t so bad, but it’s really dry and you can barely taste the cranberries.  Unlike the bison bar, this bar had no identifiable cranberry in it.  The moisture of a whole cranberry every so often would have been welcome.  I almost couldn’t eat this bar.  2 out of 10.

Lamb: Currant Mint

Best texture out of all of them.  It was soft and savory, and a little moist.  I could not taste the mint.  The currant offers a sweetness, but not a strong currant flavor.  I think jacking up the mint and currant flavor would have helped a bit.  Despite that, I really liked this bar.  While I was eating it I thought, “Yeah, this is something I could eat everyday, no problem.”  7, maybe 8, out of 10.

More to come as I consume more of the sampler…

Nootropics: NA-Semax Amidate & NA-Selank Update

I’ve used both N-Acetyl Semax Amidate and N-Acetyl Selank since I first posted (January 2016, approximately 7 months).  I might have a few days off, in between uses, now and then.

Selank definitely has a mild sedating and anxiolytic effect.  I do not suffer with much anxiety in general during the day.  In some circumstances, like when I am out at a restaurant or grocery store alone, I get fairly intense feelings of social anxiety and negative self-concept.  I do not think that Selank has helped with this at all.  I think only a very strong drug could combat these feelings when I have them, as they are pervasive and strong within those contexts.

I wouldn’t recommend Selank as an intervention for that kind of anxiety.

It does, however, have a mild mood elevation and relaxation effect.  It also helps clear your head a bit.

N-Acetyl Semax Amidate is mildly stimulating.  It isn’t enough to keep you awake if you are tired.  It won’t prevent you from sleeping (or me, at least) if you need it.  It also clears your head a bit.

The effects of both supplements are what I would consider mild and slightly beneficial.

If you are looking for something that will drastically improve your cognition or help your mood, I don’t think either of these substances are for you.

If, however, you want to experience something that gives you a little boost, then these are for you.  I alway look forward to using them, but I don’t feel like I have to.  I guess it’s a bit like soda although not as addictive.  I don’t feel bad or needy when I don’t take Semax or Selank, although the idea of using them is usually welcome.

My dose is usually once or twice a day.  Sometimes I will take 600 mcg (two nasal insufflation doses of 300 mcg) of NA Semax Amidate in the morning and 400 mcg (two nasal insufflation doses of 200 mcg) of NA Selank in the evening.  Sometimes I will mix Semax and Selank in the day.  Sometimes one dose of each, sometimes two of each.

I guess I would describe Semax as being like a bit of coffee, not much, without any jitters or anxiety.  Just a little clarity.  My mind doesn’t race, become disconnected, or confused.  I am just a bit more alert, sharper, clear.  Or at least I have that feeling.

I have experienced no noticeable improvements in creativity, productivity, memory, word choice, or any such cognitive skills while on either.

I will continue to use both Semax and Selank, however, because they do make me feel good.  I cannot describe it.  There is no euphoria or anything like that, but they do make you feel a little better.  Like something little but noticeable.  Maybe someone smiles at you or you do a small task you’ve been procrastinating over.  It’s like that.  Not huge, but nice.

Both are mild and subtle.  I think that they are perfect for things like reading for enjoyment or maybe before taking a class.  I don’t think they are good for helping you push yourself or getting you to do some difficult task better or keeping you up to cram or finish a paper or something like that.

I think they are luxuries that may help you live a little better if you’re lucky enough to be able to afford their use.

 

Syrup Wars from Timmy Big Hands

The MST3K folks did a comedy website way back in the day named “Timmy Big Hands.”  They featured two competing syrup companies putting ads on the website.

Here is the content:

Hello, it’s me, Clarence Wills. Perhaps you haven’t had a chance to try my Unusually Large Forehead Brand™ Real Maple Syrups. Well, let me tell you, these are all-natural syrups made with care by a man with a large head. Perhaps you’ve got your own ideas about what kind of syrup a man with an unusually large forehead would make. Put those away for now and enjoy the best, most rich-tasting syrup around. Made by me–a man with an unusually large forehead!


Sure, nature produces a pretty good product. But we at TechnoBerry Farms go nature one better, with MapleTane® Recombinant Pancake and Waffle Suspension.
Combining polymeric esters with genetically altered binding agents, produces a syrup that’s smooth and Maple-licious™, every time. And we put our genetic engineering into our food, not our foreheads like some other brands we know.
So next time you pour on the syrup, think about this: do you want it rich, consistent and dependable from science, or from a guy with a mutated forehead?

We think you’ll see our point.

1.) INDICATIONS. Possible indications may include dryness and lack of sweetness in pancakes, waffles, Johnny cakes, flannel cakes, flapjacks and other non-yeast raised flour and baking powder/soda and/or buttermilk-activated aerated batter-derived griddle or iron-cooked breakfast cake. 2.)DOSAGE. Initially, 10mL MapleTane per serving for adults, 5mL for children under 12, no more than twice per breakfast and no more than three times per week. 3.) POSSIBLE SIDE EFFECTS. These may include intestinal cramping, increased intestinal gas and softening of the stool, accompanied by explosive movment of the bowels and possible bleeding of the anus due to rupture of the bowel wall; vomiting, dry throat, nausea, expectoration of green mucus accompanied by increased bile out put and elevated liver and gall bladder function; dizziness, excitability, irritability, loss of sleep, drowsiness, hallucinations and in extreme cases spontaneous human combustion and/or speaking in tongues. 4.DO NOT USE MAPLETANE if you are taking an antidepressant or MAO inhibitor, insulin, enteric-coated aspirin, antihistamine or antacid of any kind. Do not combine with alcohol or any prescription depressant. Do not mix with butter or caustic fumes my result. Avoid prolonged contact with mucus membranes. If contact with eyes is made, flush with water and seek immediate medical attention.


Here at TechnoBerry Farms, we’ve been hearing a lot of talk about this or that syrup producer replacing his or her head with one fancy new thing or another. Excuse the pun, but we think that’s “wrong-headed”™; and no way to make a good old-fashioned syrup.

So at Technoberry Farms, we’ve done nature one better® by isolating a microorganism capable of excreting an organic compound that tastes just like sweet, pure syrup from the maple tree.* And it self-replicates, so you’ll never run out! It’s called RecombiLicious™, and we know you’ll love it.

Let those other guys swap heads all day long. Just remember us at breakfast.

*WARNING: RecombiLicious ™ Self-Replicating Viral Syrup Replacement (Benign) remains classified a toxic biochemical agent by the Environmental Protection Agency. RecomboLicious must be stored at all times in a certified cryogenic containment vessel at a temperature on no higher than123°K. Exposure to RecombiLicious is consdered a Level Three Contamination Risk by the World Health Organization. If RecombiLicious is found exposed to the air within a five-mile radius of any populated area, Federal law mandates that the Centers for Disease Control must be contacted immediately. For information on obtaining a license to handle RecombiLicious, please contact the United States Department of Health Publications Office, Licensing and Certification Division, PO Box 801, Pueblo, CO 51550


Hello, it’s me, Clarence Wills. A lot of the folks who enjoyed my Unusually Large Forehead Brand pure maple syrups might be a little surprised to see my head completely gone–and replaced with the head of a large, genetically mutated bald eagle! Well, I felt I had to, if only to prove to you that year after year, I produce the finest maple syrups drawn from maple trees that have been on the family farm for centuries. I don’t make my syrup out of polymers and Naugahyde like the newer brands. Oh, they like to make a lot of noise, and spend a lot of money. Meantime, I’ll be here on the farm, with my large, genetically mutated eagle head, making the finest all-natural syrups you’ve ever poured.


Hello, it’s me Clarence Wills. You know, it seems like every company with bucket-loads of investment capital and a huge R&D department thinks it can make a better syrup than mother nature herself. When I finally tasted “the other guy’s” syrup, my course seemed clear. “Clarence”, I said to myself, “time to turn your head into a hideous tube of flesh covered with thick, black insect-like hairs….and to just keep making the best all-natural syrup you know how.” Here on the Wills Family Farm, nothing’s changed–hasn’t for over a hundred years–except for the fact that I can’t see or hear because of the mutations to my head. Same old syrup, just a different head!


Flavor. That’s really what breakfast is all about. Forget fancy gimmicks, slick promotions, even nutrition. If your breakfast doesn’t wake up your taste buds, it might as well be lunch.

Here at TechnoBerry Farms, we’re frankly sick of the competition gobbling up market share with their so-called down-home spokesperson who’d strap on the head of an aardvark if he though it would sell syrup.

We’d rather wake up your taste buds.

Introducing Sweet-a-Sulfate™, made especially for waffles, designed to pour smooth and rich, and evaporate sedimentary deposits from the waffle surface.

If that doesn’t wake up your taste buds, nothing will.

Warning: to be used as a waffle surface removal agent only. Harmful or fatal if swallowed. Contact with skin will cause severe burns. Contact with eyes will cause blindness. Contact with mucous membranes is known to initiate an osmotic absorption and can cause blood poisoning. Sweet-a-Sulfate is a known carcinogen. It is unlawful to transport Sweet-a-Sulfate without Federal authorization. Use of Sweet-a-Sulfate to synthesize explosives is unlawful.


Take a look at me. Go on, take a good look. No mutations here, my friends, no frightening head transplants. Just me, Garrick Partridge, exactly as God made me.

And see this apple? We created it. From virtually nothing, in a Petri dish, we made an apple. Who else can do that? Nobody. Just God and us. Sure, the apple is still highly toxic, but that’s not the point.

The point is syrup. Ours is the best, period. Created from nature’s own pure chemicals and genetic material to taste as good–no, better–then the real thing.

Don’t be fooled by idiotic clowns with colorful, exciting heads. That’s a lot of crap. Our syrup is the best you can buy, so buy it, unless you’re stupid and easily swayed by funny heads.

Look, just buy our damn syrup, okay?


Hello, it’s me, Clarence Wills. Some friends have written recently and said they’ve been disturbed by my latest head mutations. The eagle head didn’t have the comforting effect I’d hoped, and the hideous tube of flesh? …Well, guess not all the folks can see the positive side of that like I can.

So here’s a new head, that of an attractive young woman — even if she might be a bit insane. But there’s nothing insane about the down-home quality of our maple syrups — delicious and always 100% natural, even if my head is not.


Hi folks, it’s me, Clarence Wills. Well, I’ve gone and changed my head into that of a translucent space being from a highly advanced civilization. Thought you might like that. But that doesn’t mean we’ve up and changed the old fashioned way we make our down-home maple syrup. No, other companies may use science fiction-like methods to manufacture their syrup products, but the only futuristic thing you’ll find here on the Wills Family Farm is my new head.


We’re taking the high ground in breakfast flavor, once and for all. And we’re taking no prisoners. TechnoBerry Farms introduces MapleSat, a global network of maple flavored focused-beam laser-armed satellites orbiting the world’s population centers. Which means you can have our delicious syrup applied directly to your pancakes, digitally, from anywhere in the world. What’s more, MapleSat’s lasers are weapons-class, which means we can clear out a whole city block in an instant. Right now we have one trained on a certain ambiguously-headed fellow named Clarence.

But we could easily train it on you. Think about that next time you have pancakes or waffles.


Hello, it’s me Clarence the Lion. Rooarr! When I was human, many of you enjoyed the fine syrups…Roaaarrrr!! I’m so sorry. My leonine nature is beginning to take…Roarrr! Roooar! …Uh..mm… gulp …Syrup…all that makes me human, slipping away… Roar… all-natural… Roar! Roar! Syrup.

 

 

The Boy in the Room of Knives

The room hangs in the middle of nowhere. There are no doors, no windows. Each wall is the same as the other, as same as the floor and the ceiling–covered with standing knives, pointing inward toward the center of the room. In the center of the room is a boy, floating, his knees to his chest, his arms wrapped tight around his knees. His skin is pale yellow and dry. He cries dry tears, and makes the low, staccato sound of dry sobs. He stinks of sickness and death. His black eyes stare forward, looking into the truth.

He is a patchwork of innumerable open cuts, which cover his body yet do not bleed.

Every year, a pilgrimage is made to this place using unseen roads, and, through magic so old that it is beyond ancient, one question may be asked of the boy. The answers are always completely honest and pierce the core of the matter. For every answer he gives, he receives a new cut that will never heal.

The boy can never die.

Written Away

She thought his prose was beautiful. And his poetry. Dear God, his poetry!

She didn’t like the admit it, and was more than a little ashamed, but it made her wet.

Some of it was really, really twisted. Those were the ones she liked the most.

But it turned out to be just a horrible, horrible mistake.

At first, she felt full. His words filled her, made her life a dizzying tapestry of meaning. She had felt things she had never felt before, and thought not just new thoughts, but traveled along the labyrinthine paths of new ways of thinking. Very exciting.

He smiled at her, and wrote her more and more each day, and each day she became more enraptured. Before she knew it, she had moved in.

One thing led to another, as they say, and they got married.

But she had started feeling… empty. Something was missing. And she wasn’t seeing as much of him anymore and not writing for her as much. He was writing things and not showing them to her. She knew it.

She really got worried one day when she looked in the mirror and saw something slightly transparent looking back. She shook her head, and the image was gone. Just her staring back, solid, but she had rings around her eyes. Got to start eating right, she told herself.

She had been seeing less and less of her husband, and he had become more and more private, locking himself in his writing room. “I’m sorry, honey,” he’d say, “but it’s like this when I’m writing a novel. I just need my space, that’s all. Novel writing is a very intensive process for me, not like poems or short prose works. Bear with it. It’ll be over before you know it.” And he’d smile knowingly when he said that sentence, for he had said it more than once.

She really freaked out later when she saw that there was something wrong with her skin. What was it? Pale spots? No… more like… an absence of some kind… like nothing there. Strange shapes, almost like letters. She couldn’t focus. It made her think about the calls for some reason. There were calls where she’d say hello, but there was silence for a moment on the other end before the caller hung up. She was almost certain he was cheating on her, or starting to.

Days passed, more marks, more of that woman in the mirror becoming more and more transparent. What day was it? Had she even been to her job recently? Things were getting so confusing. Those marks were all over her skin. Some kind of crawling nothingness all over her.

And then she found the page, must have slipped from the table in his writing room and slid on a cushion of air through the slit at the bottom of the door.

It was a poem. The kind of poem that had won her over in the beginning. As she read it, she couldn’t really understand what she was reading, but it hurt. She felt that absence of herself in herself most keenly, and felt pains on her skin where those marks were.

A chill ran over her, and she knew in her bones what was happening.

He was cheating on her, and worse than that, he was turning her into stories. She was fading away.

It was irrational, but she knew it was true. In a panic, she ran to her room to gather her things to leave, but he was there, standing with many, many sheets of paper, all with his writing on them.

“I’m sorry, honey, that it has to be this way,” he said as he walked toward her. Somehow seeing those pages made her nauseated and weak. They almost vibrated in his hands with some kind of sick, stolen life.

He grabbed her arm, and she tried to get away, but his grip was like cold iron. He led her to the bed.

He had her sit down on it, and the room started spinning. He turned the sheets to face her. “Do you see? I think this is my best work yet.” Words spiraling, black, curved thieves on a floor of hospital white doing a kind of mocking, cruel dance.

Seeing the words made something in her stomach twist. She was going to vomit.

“This work is almost finished.” He turned the pages back toward himself and walked out the door, turned around, and started to close it.

“You aren’t the first, you know. And you won’t be the last. But you should have known in the first place what you were getting into. You should have known. Never marry a writer. He’ll just turn you into stories, and there will be nothing left of you.”

He then smiled at her, closed the door, and when she heard him lock it from the outside, she knew what was going to happen next. He was going to finish the novel.

The Poisoned Fish

There is a restaurant in a dusty place at the corner of the world. It serves a very special kind of fish.

The fish is both naturally poisonous and poisoned by way of preparation. No one knows how it is prepared. All that is known is that it is a natural process carried out by sexless dwarves in a very dark place. There are rumors about children’s hearts and the tears of widows and other such nonsense, but truly, no one knows for sure.

It is a delicacy, and its painful deliciousness is beyond measure and compare. Men eat it to become insane. Women eat it to hate themselves.

I’d invite you to have some with me, but I’ve already eaten and have cut out my tongue.

The Dinner Present

They had been meeting in secret for weeks.

It wasn’t exactly an affair, but it certainly wasn’t on the up-and-up.

The sexual tension, the knowing looks, innuendos… they’d been going on steadily. No barriers, though, had been breached thus far.

He didn’t know, but tonight was going to be different.

She was acting a bit nervous all evening, and he didn’t understand why. He thought that, perhaps, she was having more trouble than usual with her husband. He knew for damned sure that things were as dead as ever with his wife.

They ordered their appetizers and meal, as usual, but she was silent tonight. He joked to lighten the mood. She smiled and looked down at her plate and then up at him.

“What?” he said.

She drew her upper lip down over her upper teeth and pulled it in tight, as if to contain her words, the way she did when she felt shy and restrained. He thought it was adorable. It was a child-like thing to do.

She shook her head in that timid little way she did when she was being coy. He loved that too.

“Nothing,” she said, and stabbed at her appetizer with the fork and put it into her mouth so she could chew and not have to say anything.

In the middle of the entree, however, something in her broke.

“I have to tell you something,” she said.

“What?” he asked.

She reached down into her purse and pulled out an ornate wooden box and held it on her lap, looking down at it, her upper lip pulled down and tight against her teeth, again, this time with more pressure making her look a bit silly but very, very cute. Her upper lip became very thin and turned white.

She stayed like that for a while.

He tried to speak but she shook her head, indicating that he should remain silent.

She took a deep breath, raised her shoulders, let them drop with an exhale, and looked down at the table in front of her. Then she nodded to herself and looked directly at him.

“This is for you,” she said, and she put the box in front of him. “I’ve felt this way about you for a very long time.”

“I don’t…” he started saying, “I don’t understand.” He looked very concerned as he said it, looking first to her, then the box, and then to her again.

She smiled and nodded quickly. “Just open it.”

He opened it slowly and looked down at the contents of the box, and his face filled with a mixture of confusion, surprise, gratefulness, hope, and love.

He looked at her.

“I never knew,” he said.

She nodded.

“How long have you felt this way?”

“For a very long time.”

“Seriously?”

“Yes.”

“OMG. I didn’t know… I knew you liked me and I liked you, and I’ve always loved your company but….”

She looked hurt. “You don’t feel the same?”

“No!” he said, “I mean, YES! Yes! I do. I don’t feel differently. I just….”

He reached into the box, and removed what it contained with his right hand.

It was a silver handgun, with a pearl grip.

He looked at it, then he looked at her.

“I love you,” he said.

She smiled and nodded to him, understanding that he meant that he had always loved her.

He then took the pistol, placed it at his temple, and pulled the trigger.

“I know,” she answered.

The Devil Appear’d in the Shape of a Man

The devil appeared in the shape of a man, that man bearing the name Thomas Pleasant.

The devil appeared in the shape of a man, Thomas Pleasant being he who through 40 stokes of a stringent blade did dismember the most high judge of the court of the town of Wilkshire.

The devil appeared in the shape of a man, Thomas Pleasant, blood covered, his countenance sweating and red-purple and contorted with pain.

The devil appeared in the shape of a man, he being Thomas Pleasant, shouting at the ceiling, cursing God’s name with barbarous words and begging and demanding by turns with guttural voice–laughing and crying with madness–for the end of time.

The devil appeared in the shape of a man, Thomas Pleasant, as he covered himself with the filth of the corpse with his bare hands, undressing, and licking his hands, looking about like a wild animal while muttering profane words to himself in dead tongues.

And the devil who appeared in the shape of a man, Thomas Pleasant, did exit that house of the former high judge, breaking the door in transit, and burst forth into the night as the rain fell and the world cracked open with thunderous noise.

Flashes of lightning punctuated the dark, exposing the frames of Thomas Pleasant’s movement through the trees, first here, now there, the falling rain washing the blood from him, rivers of purity tracing paths through thick brown and red.

He ran, bounding with inhuman strength and speed, the high branches of trees becoming his ground as he did leap from one to another, going from height to height ever greater.

With a push of his legs, which caused the aged, strong tree beneath him to crack and fall, he flew into the sky, stepping onto an invisible, unearthly ground and laughing in his defiance of divine laws, nature being the devil’s church.

Up, up into the sky he flew until he was a mote and then disappeared, moving into an unknown place.

N-Acetyl Semax Amidate and N-Acetyl Selank

I purchased N-Acetyl Semax Amidate and N-Acetyl Selank nasal sprays from Ceretropic around a month ago.  I’ve been using both daily.  Generally, I will use Semax in the day and Selank a few hours before bed.  The dose is 100 mcg per spray.

I have also been using a Noopept nasal spray.

The experience with both of these has been subtle.  I have tried using a variety of dose levels, ranging from 100 mcg of just one to 400 mcg of both.

The anxiolytic effects of Selank are noticeable even at low doses.  Before I got used to it, I decided this was definitely something I would only take near bed-time and not when I had a lot of stuff to do.  It made me tired and even a little drunk at first, but after a some days of use that effect wore off.

I am really at a loss to describe the effects of each.  Semax is definitely a little stimulating.  Selank is more relaxing.  In terms of mental clarity, memory, and other cognition-enhancing effects, I’d have to say that subtle is the key word.  There were no dramatic, noticeable increases.  I never went, “Holy fuck! I’m just ON today!”

I did find myself simply not experiencing the tip of the tongue phenomenon as much as well as being able to remember better.  But this is in retrospect and only because I can recall periods where I had a lack of the emotional reactions which unfortunately attend memory or word lapses on my account.  I feel embarrassed and stupid when it happens.  It is only in retrospect that I have realized, hey, I didn’t feel like that at all for the past day or so.

That is not to say days have gone by without incident, but I would say that the incidences are fewer.

In terms of clarity of thought, increased attention span, and ability to focus, again, I think the effects are very subtle.  They may well enhance these capacities, but not dramatically.

One thing I have noticed is a marked desire and anticipation for taking the doses.  They make me feel better for a while.  So, this leads me to believe that while every website I’ve looked at regarding the two claim that they are non-addictive, I believe that they are psychologically addictive.

I say this, because when I was running out, I got a little bit of an anxious, “Oh no! I want more of this stuff!” feeling.  That is certainly a sign of psychological addiction.

I’ve read that these drugs affect the activity of dopamine and serotonin, and I believe it.

I wish I could be more lucid regarding my experiences with these two substances.  I think what needs to happen is for me to take them alone many hours apart and take care to notice what is going on regarding them.  I may do this.

I re-ordered two more bottles, this time at the higher doses (300 mcg Semax and 200 mcg Selank).  I’ll dedicate a few days to taking them without Noopept or each other.  I’ll space out the doses, and then I’ll report my experiences here.

Would I recommend them?  Yes… if it’s true that they aren’t physically addictive.  I’ve been a few days off of them during this time span, and I did not experience any funk, negativity, unpleasant emotions, or physical symptoms as a result of not taking them.  So I doubt they are physically addictive.  But they are psychologically addictive, at least for me.

That being said, the reason I would recommend them is for that very factor.  They help you feel better, I think, on a daily basis.  I believe they have made me more emotionally even in general, and less reactive.  They also seem to mellow out some compulsive tendencies of mine.

As for the cognitive enhancing effects, they are mild but noticeable, if only in looking back and realizing that I had fewer embarrassing forgetful moments or those times when I mean to say one word and think I’m saying it, but another comes out of my mouth based on what I was just thinking about.

Jack Thompson D&D Module Maps

I love these maps by Jack Thompson.  They are playful and provide a graphic illustration of the contents of each module.  One thing I like about DCC RPG is that the maps themselves are works of art, like this, and are often rendered at a viewing angle that give a more 3D impression of the location and its contents.

He sells prints of the maps and also a map of the Dreamlands of Unknown Kaddath, which I own, and it’s lovely.  Visit him at mockman.com and take a look at his store.

A1: Slave Pits of the Undercity

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Dreamlands of Unknown Kaddath

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D3: Vault of the Drow

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G1: Steading of the Hill Giant Chief

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G2: Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl

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The God that Crawls from Lamentations of the Flame Princess:

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I6: Ravenloft

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Out of the Abyss

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S1: The Tomb of Horrors

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S2: White Plume Mountain

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S3: Expedition to the Barrier Peaks

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S4: The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth

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T1: The Village of Hommlet

T1: The Village of Hommlet Walkthrough

X1: Isle of Dread

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Noopept Experience

A long time ago I purchased some Noopept powder from Nootropics Depot.  As with most nootropics I’ve tried, I had an initial excitement about it, but then the love affair quickly tapered off.  My experiences with racetams have usually left me feeling a bit spacey and off. [Since posting I have learned that while Noopept is similar in structure to racetams, it is not part of the racetam family. -SM]

I decided to give it another go, but this time I changed the delivery method.  I took an old 1.5 oz saline nasal spray bottle and emptied it.  I thoroughly mixed about 200 mg of Noopept with distilled water and filled the spray bottle to 3/4ths with it.

For the past several days (I’d say about four), I have been using the spray bottle to take it through nasal insufflation.  At first I tried a spray in each nostril.  As the days progressed, I found I needed much less, and I only used it a few hours after I felt no noticeable effects from the Noopept.

What has happened?

My vision is noticeably clearer.  Colors are more vivid.  This effect has become long lasting in the past couple of days.  That is, I can notice it when I wake up.  Also, it is as if my myopia has become a little better.  I was amazed today to notice that I could see numbers some distance away more clearly.  It’s a two-phase thing.  The first phase is when the numbers are a bit blurry, but if I keep looking, suddenly they come into focus and I see them very clearly.  There is still a bit of a fuzzy aura around them.

I suspect that my eyes are just as bad as they were, but the Noopept is doing something to the visual parts in my brain.  It seems to be upping the signal.  What I think is happening is that my eyes are seeing the blurry number, but my brain recognizes what the number is and imposes what it should see upon what I am actually seeing.  That’s my hypothesis anyway.

I feel a little more… I don’t want to say clearheaded… I feel that my brain activity is a little more even, if that makes any sense.  I don’t necessarily feel or perceive any more clarity of thought.  My memory isn’t much better, I don’t think.  But I am lacking the sort of dreamy haziness that usually comes with racetams.  There is also a sort of feeling of disconnection racetams give me, like I am floating just a little bit away from reality or my normal way of thinking and perceiving.  I’ve found that distracting in the past.  It’s there, a bit, but it is not as distracting.

I think the ideal dose for me is actually lower than 10 mg per pop.

A side effect that I guess is normal with drugs that affect choline is that I feel a bit stiff and crampy in various muscles.  This makes sense because choline affects muscle tone.  I think I may need to reduce the dose even more, because over the days there has been a noticeable buildup.  It tapers off, however, hours after I have taken a dose.  But it seems to be building, so when it occurs, it’s worse than the earlier time.

If I can adjust the dose to manage the stiffness better, I think I may continue with taking Noopept for a while.  Supposedly the real benefits from nootropics come from long-term use.

Another thing that has happened (which may very well be the result of the Noopept) is that last night I had a very strange, incredibly meaningful and emotional dream.  These kinds of dreams are rare for me.  It was almost as if I had a spiritual teacher who was trying to teach me something about life itself.  It made sense, and I think I may have learned something on a deep level.  May have been a fluke, however.  We’ll just have to see.

I have just gotten N-Acetyl-Selank and N-Acetyl-Semax-Amidate nasal sprays.  I will be taking those, too, and will probably post on my experiences.

I’ve already taken a dose of each. My first thoughts are that the Selank kinda takes me out of it.  That is, I can really feel the anxiolytic effects of it.  It made me pretty sleepy and relaxed, and I didn’t want to do anything.  I didn’t get good sleep last night, however, and that might be part of it.  What will give a better impression is a dose taken after a good, full night of sleep and when I’ve become alert and engaged in a wakeful participation with the day.  If it pulls me down from that upswing, then I’ll know that the anxiolytic effect is too strong for me… perhaps taking it at night would be better in that case.

Semax seemed a bit uplifting.  The effects of the Semax may have been modified by the Selank.  I will have to take Semax alone and notice what happens.

I’m very excited.  As I’ve grown older, I’ve noticed more fog and muddle-headedness.  I think I used to be a lot sharper than I am now, and it’s depressing.  I also feel a lack of motivation and purpose.  I think that, perhaps, if these substances can help my brain heal and repair itself, I might be able to get some of that back.  It feels for the first time using these substances that it might be possible.

I think my mistake in the past was thinking that more is better.  I think a better approach with this stuff is to start small and very mild and let it build gradually over time.  With the muscle cramping I think that the smaller amount of Noopept I’m taking may well be too much.  I think I may dilute what I have in the spray bottle even more.

We’ll see.

First Draft – Pt. 3: Conversation with a Brain Parasite

Kem awoke on the floor to a throbbing pain in his head and a faint sound of scratching.

He opened his watering eyes. A blurry black spot on the floor wavered in front of him.

He instinctively drew back from it and rubbed his eyes. Focusing better, he identified the object on ground before him as a grotesque, black bug.

No larger than the top joint of his index finger, its beetle-like, tear-drop shaped body (tapering in the front) bore six very thin, crooked, long, and spiked legs. Two black, beady eyes peered at him from stalks. Long antennae waved about. A strange, sinister-looking, thin proboscis stretched out from its head, more than three times the length of its body.

It attempted to move about in a slow, clumsy fashion, but failed. The black insect appeared too weak to be ambulatory.

“Incredibly selfish!” it piped a small shout, “You have rudely evicted me from my delicate, cushiony, and warm heaven of soft brain tissue, interrupting my intoxicating neuro-chemical bath and the sweet, soothing, tantalizing electric pulse-storms therein!”

Kem was surprised the insect could speak and that he could understand it, but then remembered Ajuk.

“Surrounded by such a dazzling cocoon of pleasure…” it said and trailed off dreamily, and then, as if rudely awakened from the reverie, exclaimed, “All gone because of your selfishness!”

The black thing clumsily and weakly yet indignantly moved its legs to turn its body so that it faced Kem squarely. It made Kem think of drunken oarsmen pulling black, misshapen oars in a small, black boat.

It continued its tirade, “Fiend! You had a tumor, did you know that? To think I saved your life by eating it! Is this gratitude? Look at me! I shiver on this cold, hard floor, sickened by whatever drug you took, which I can only guess was to force me from my rightful home. Who died and made you Pan-Creator, most holy judge of all? Do you think your flesh is just for you? You disgustingly decadent narcissist!”

As repulsive as the thing was, Kem could not help but smile at its ridiculous outrage and had to stifle a laugh. But one thing the bug said had concerned him.

“You expect me to believe that your intention was to help me?” he asked. “What tumor? You lie.”

At first, the bug reeled in surprise at Kem being able to speak its language. Kem was almost as surprised too, hearing the strange noises issue from his throat. The thing’s surprise did not last, however, as it was overtaken by self-righteous indignation.

The black insect gesticulated in agitation with its spiked, crooked front limbs, as if frustrated by Kem’s stupidity, “What do I gain from a lie? I suspect you will simply step on me no matter what I say. What a loss! Such a magnificent, rare life-form as me… winked out by a degrading gesture from an ignorant giant! Is the bottom of your foot to be my resting place? Perhaps you’ll scrape me off on some edge somewhere, and that will be my grave… What a tragedy and insult! For your information, you walking, talking hotel of meat, I did eat a tumor. It was a nasty one–small yet malignant–right next to your thalamus gland. Delicious, too, I must add. I was hungry, and it was there. So I ate. But that is of no matter. There was no harm or malice in my action. I did you a favor!”

Kem began feeling concerned as an unpleasant line of reasoning presented itself. “And did you eat anything else?”

“Not one tasty morsel did I consume! I have been a mountain of forbearance!” it exclaimed. “As I had promised.”

“Promised?”

Realizing its mistake, the bug hesitated and then wiggled its antennae and forelegs, chittering nervously. “A manner of speaking, nothing more.”

“Perhaps promised the High Prax?” Kem asked, and raised a foot, menacingly.

“Do not squash me!” it pleaded. “Damn that High Prax to a thousand hells! He coerced me! I harmed not one precious, delicious cell in your big, lavish cranium! He made me promise not to! The tumor was nothing valuable… to the contrary! He said nothing of tumors! I did no permanent damage to your savory brain meat or its functions! I saved you from certain painful death and mental ruin! That tumor would have killed you for sure! Have mercy!”

It lowered its front half and raised two of its forelimbs in a gesture of groveling supplication.

“Saved me for what, inevitable death?”

The insect’s eyes wavered back and forth on their stalks. It grabbed an antenna with a front leg and began nervously cleaning it with its mandibles. It seemed indecisive to Kem, as if trying to choose between difficult options.

“Death comes to us all, sooner or later,” it muttered petulantly, and then self-consciously stopped cleaning itself.

Kem looked down at his foot. “For some of us, it comes sooner than others…”

“Your fate is not my responsibility! Only yours! Each must attend to his own interests! The High Prax threatens the life of my beloved Klk’Klk! If I did not obey him, he would kill her! Never again would I breathe the sweet vapors of her effluence! I would die a death of horrible agony! You do not know how it is for we males of my species… to be separated from your bonded mate is worse than death!”

Its legs twitched uncontrollably, and its body shook in small spasms.

“Even now, exiled from the bliss of your delicate tissues, I experience tremendous, worsening pain… though whatever noxious drug you took has has left me somewhat numb. For that, at least, I am thankful. But the pain will return… and worse by the day!”

It paused, thoughtfully, and continued, “Perhaps you should kill me. I fear the High Prax’s wrath! He will never again let me know the sweet bliss of Klk’Klk. I have never met a more perverted sadist!”

Remembering the words of Ajuk, Kem said, “Your supposed romantic bliss sounds to me like an ongoing torment. You say the High Prax is sadistic. What of this Klk’Klk you adore? It sounds less like love and more like enslavement, although it asserted among we Praxes that the two are the same…”

“I bless her and curse her in the same breath! She is abominable! Her demands are constant and her satisfaction is as a wink of one of your meaty eyelids. She is a creature of contempt. Her means of abuse are myriad and numerous! Nothing I do is enough. She pushes and pushes, and if I utter a word she simply waits with smug superiority as my withdrawal agony grows. Then she emits but a puff of her glorious aroma and a command… and I lack all will to resist! I obey! But what is a male Ch’k’t’t to do? I am bonded, along with the others of her harem. I could almost sympathize with my brethren if I didn’t hate them! Deceitful and loathsome, the lot of them! She keeps us in constant competition for her affections and at each other’s throats. Though I understand all this, I am helpless to act against it…”

Kem smiled inwardly.

“What if I told you that you could be free of your bondage? To be free of the chemical sorcery of Klk’Klk would to be free of the coercion of the High Prax, Never again would you be enslaved! You would be free!”

“Could a Ch’k’t’t dare dream it?” asked the bug. It stared at Kem in silence for a moment. “This supposed freedom, how could it be achieved, and at what cost?”

As if a quiet inner voice urged him, Kem suddenly felt an inspiring impulse.

Kem nodded. “As you know, we Praxes can overcome pain. It is not a matter of tolerance. We subvert the very sensation before it is felt. It is nothing to us. This method could be taught. You could overcome your addiction to the wiles of the female tyrants of your species. Never again would you be called slave.”

“The price?”

“I am trapped. I need to escape. Perhaps you could somehow help? I could teach you the first lesson now, which would allow you to achieve some relief. With further training, your life would be yours. Your actions dictated by your own designs and desires, instead of those of Klk’Klk or anyone else.”

The bug issued a buzzing “mmm” sound as it thought, as if it were savoring the flavor of the proposal.

“Freedom… but to never again feel the bliss…”

“Freedom is its own bliss. But think on this: perhaps the tables could somehow be turned. Do not the female Ch’k’t’t have dependencies? The sacred teachings of the Prax elucidate the dangers of Kamalah. The mistress owns the slave, true, but in turn the slave also owns the mistress. This is a great secret. If all males of your kind shared this sacred knowledge, no female could again enslave a male… at least not through the threat of pain. And in any case, there is always deception and manipulation. You could trick her. Otherwise, what is given willingly may also be taken by force.”

As the Ch’k’t’t thought on this, Kem found himself shocked at his words. These were not the words of a Prax! From whence did they come?

As Keg looked at the insect, for a moment he began so see colored shapes, like luminous shadows and ghost images, form around objects. It was as if another visual perception of his surroundings was superimposing itself on his own. He rubbed his eyes and the phenomenon vanished.

“I am willing to do this thing,” said the bug, “teach me your methods.”

Unbidden and of themselves, ideas and plans began to unfold in his mind.

“I will,” said Kem, “but first we must discuss the means of my escape and your role in it.”

First Draft – Pt. 2: The Transcendent Insect

Kem’s body shook and cold sweat dripped from his brow, stinging his eyes, yet he did not let this distract him. He continued the Grand Rite of Cultivation.

The Nectar of Ibaz had done its work. He circulated the energy throughout his physical and energetic bodies, directing the process of refining the base physical energies into more subtle forms, converting nervous energy into spiritual power, and then stored it in the sacred vessels of his energetic body.

The abnormal physical symptoms could come from only from one source: poison. He suspected as much when the High Prax had offered the Nectar and knew his body well enough to know he was not ill. Motivated by fatal urgency, he diverged from the accepted practice of the Rite.

“I do not know how long this physical form will last,” he thought, “so I must utilize it as much as I can while it still has strength, converting as much energy from the Nectar of Ibaz as I can.” The physical body, though gross in form, was necessary for this practice, without it, conversion of physical matter, such as the Nectar, to spiritual form was impossible… at least for a being at his level of progress.

The problem was the more he cultivated the more he could feel his body deteriorate.

“What an insidious poison!” he thought.

He accepted the immanence of his death. The best course of action was to reinforce the body of light, which, properly developed, could bring his ego, mind, and memories intact into the next realm. Then, once in the mystery, well… who could say what then?

As he worked, he heard a buzzing which echoed throughout his chamber. A presence, a warmth and feeling of spiritual power emanated in the air ahead of him. Through his closed eyelids, he could perceive a radiance of golden light. Looking upon it with his inner vision, he saw a form of dense geometric shapes written upon space with lines of brilliance. Circular waves of energy radiated outward from it. Bright pulses raced along the lengths of the circles.

A buzzing voice called his name.

“Kem!”

“Hallucination,” he thought, and he feared the end of his material form was near.

“No hallucination,” said the voice. “Open your eyes. Look. I bring hope!”

Perhaps out of a fatalistic urge, he did so.

A small golden insect hovered in the air before his face. An iridescent, multi-colored sheen covered the golden carapace. Formidable, bright eyes faceted with pentagonal shapes and reflecting every color stared back at him. They contained a cool, alien intelligence. The air throbbed around the creature, creating a sensation of wavering pressure, thrumming to a steady rhythm which was hypnotic.

The anthropomorphic bug gave the impression of a curmudgeonly old man.

“I am Ajuk. Aspirant of the Clear Fire,” the buzzing voice wavered in synchronization with the hypnotic pressure-waves. “I have attained the Ninth Level and possess Clarity and Power. I am here to sacrifice my physical form so that you may save yours.”

Though dizzy and bewildered, his physical senses failing, he could recognize the creature. “You are xing-fly!”

“That is what your species call my kind, yes.”

“Your color and shape are odd,” he said, becoming dizzier, “but you are a xing-fly.”

“The form of the Aspirant changes as he or she moves along the path. But this is unimporant. You have ingested a poison. This poison must be counteracted. When I instruct you, you will reach out to me. You will then pluck the eyes from my face and, after, consume my body. You will experience a tremendous heat. At the peak, crush my eyes and rub them into yours.”

“Doing so would expedite my passing. Your kind are toxic for people to eat. I may still yet cultivate and store more, and I must strengthen the body of light…”

“My kind are not people? Do not be so prejudiced. And, no. It will not expedite your passing. True, we are toxic to species you label mammals, but you have drunk the water which drips from the stone of this chamber, carrying with it certain minuscule particles which alter the body. And you have ingested yet another toxin with the Nectar. Consuming my body will interact with these elements, creating an antidote, and this will also force the parasite from your brain matter and out of your body.”

“Parasite?” Kem almost laughed as he said it. This must be a hallucination. He started to go back to his practice of cultivation, deciding to ignore the sensory illusions no doubt brought about by his advancing physical degeneration.

“Fool!” Ajuk buzzed loudly. Kem felt a wave of spiritual force strike his being, causing him to open his eyes in shock.

“I am no apparition of your deluded psyche or polluted body! I have sworn to sacrifice my life to you in service of a greater cause, despite your ingratitude and foolishness. Quickly now, I must explain a thing: the parasite has been introduced into your body by the High Prax. The High Prax has enslaved this disgusting creature and commanded it to control you. You have, up until recently, been a pawn of the proxy of the High Prax. The insect resides in your brain and feeds upon your cerebral-spinal fluid. The fibers of its proboscis branch out and control the tissues of your brain, manipulating your thoughts and actions. When you consume me, it will force him out. You must not destroy this abominable creature but instead negotiate with it. I will quickly instruct you as to how. Are you prepared to listen?”

Overwhelmed by these events and debilitated by the poison coursing through him, he almost laughed at the absurdity. But he contained himself, and nodded to the thing. With his inner vision, he perceived something in front of him. Whatever it was, it had the quality of a transcendent being.

“Good. Listen well: the foul being, once evacuated from your flesh, will crawl upon the ground, debilitated by the substance of my body. You must speak with it. Know this: it is bound to its mate, which is held captive by the High Prax. It is through coercion that the High Prax controls this thing of corruption. Every moment spent away from its mate is agony to this creature. The female of the species dominates the male and injects a fluid which changes the male’s bio-chemistry. It becomes imprinted with and addicted to her unique pheromone signature. It finds her feminine effluence intoxicating and suffers terrible withdrawals when deprived of it. Right now, the little beast is in an agony of torment, yet it persists, for it knows it will soon be reunited with its mate. However, the females of this species are malevolent, selfish, and sadistic. The males hate the females, yet cannot resist them, as they are compelled by their biology.”

“A terrible predicament, not unlike some situations among my species,” Kem said with amusement. “Females are notorious sources of the forbidden Kamalah. We Praxes have transcended this lowly form of slavery through mastery of our physical and emotional selves…”

“Indeed. And that is a great boon to you and will be the secret of your freedom from this place.”

“How…” Kem reeled. “The poison…” he thought, “not much time left. I hope this is no hallucination!”

“There is much to say and little time to say it! Attend! Using the energetic teaching method, you will instruct the thing how to overcome its attachment and the physical pain of withdrawal. Worry not! You will find yourself infused with power upon consuming my body and able to communicate with the creature. Convince it of the values of your training. Offer it freedom from the tyranny of its appetites and the oppression and control of the High Prax and its revolting consort.”

“Hurry now. First, pluck my eyes, then consume my body. You will undergo a variety of sensations. When the heat reaches its peak, crush my eyes between thumb and forefinger of each hand, creating a paste. Rub this paste harshly into your own eyes. I, Ajuk, sacrifice myself to you and the greater good in the name of the Clear Fire! Now, about your work, young Prax! Slay me so that you may live!”

Clumsily and with blurred vision, as the poison was nearly finished with him, he reached toward the most solid-looking of the many xing-flies which spun around each other.

He plucked the eyes. If Ajuk felt pain, he showed no signs protest. He then put Ajuk into his mouth and chewed. Oozy and flaky, fibrous textures and a strongly bitter taste filled his mouth. His tongue felt dry. No matter. He chewed and swallowed.

As Ajuk had said, a variety of sensations flooded his body. Fire and chills. Pressure and release. Lightness and heaviness. Tingling, stinging, spasms… He began to feel a steady heat increasing with each breath. Hotter and hotter. His flesh burned at greater and greater levels of intensity. He felt his body hit the floor. A blinding field of white light seared his visual field though his eyes were closed.

“When,” he thought, “is the peak?”

Trained to not simply endure pain, but to, upon reflex, transform the sensations before they reached even the most primitive reptilian aspect of his mind. Even so, he had never encountered sensations this intense. It threatened to overcome his conditioning.

He felt faint. This was beyond his training. Peak or not, he must act now. He crushed Ajuk’s eyes as instructed and then rubbed them into his own. Something on the surface of his eyes began to penetrate and move inward. As they did, a display of unearthly, dazzling colors and shapes played across his vision. And then a shroud of pure darkness as his body lapsed into unconsciousness.

First Draft – Pt. 1: Betrayal and Nectar

Kem finished his proposal. It met silence in the holy chamber. Not one stolid priest changed his stoic expression. The High Prax stared at Kem with his fierce, penetrating eyes. Kem felt an increasing sensation of pressure. Danger.

“Your words are corrupt,” said the High Prax. Kem felt an involuntary shock. The High Prax continued, pointing a finger at Kem, “They carry the taint of krem-krem!”

“Krem-krem!” the body of priests chanted with condemnation, “Krem-krem!”

Kem reeled. Each word caused a tightening of his stomach as if he had been struck. Betrayal! For months now, he had confided in the High Prax about his propositions regarding the sacred understandings, and it was the High Prax himself who had suggested the he make the proposal during the Great Convocation.

Why? What was happening?

He had believed he had grown close to the High Prax in the past year. Manipulation! In the shock of realization he saw that the series of events had been planned. The High Prax had slowly encouraged his line of spiritual reasoning, cultivating it in Kem. Was this the High Prax’s way of teaching that it was arrogance to assume any sort of intimacy with him or to diverge from the sacred teaching? Or something else?

The Praxes continued to chant, “Krem-krem! Krem-krem!”

Kem felt his face redden. “No!” he thought. “No!”

“Behold!” cried one of the priests, mockingly, “The face flesh reveals the presence of the scarlet seeds of Kamalah!”

“Impure!” several of the priests shouted. And then, again, they repeated their chant of accusation and judgment: “Krem-krem!”

For Kem, the world began to spin. He felt an hot, icy feeling work its way up from his stomach into his throat. Where was his sacred control? A clammy sweat upon his face. A cold, disgusting trickle under his armpits. Waves of nausea threatened to make him bend over and retch. “No!” he thought, “Where is my purity? The body reverts, suddenly, and obtains dominance over the spirit! Years of training ruined in an instant! I reek with the stench of Kamalah like some unclean, undisciplined neophyte! What has happened to me?”

He had passed through the Fifth Travail long ago and had rid himself of base instinct and involuntary physical reactions. The animal had been tamed. How could this be?

The High Prax raised his hands. The Convocation resumed silence.

“Prax Kem clearly demonstrates the signs of krem-krem! He has fallen into the filth of Kamalah and must be cleansed. Kem, leave this place. You have soiled it with your impurity and weakness. You will go immediately to the Site of Holy Excruciation and begin the Rite of Purification.”

“No!” thought Kem, seeing his years of spiritual progress fade and his hopes for future progress vanish. “I will never ascend!”

“But then…” he thought as his mind raced in new, unthinkable directions, sensing new possibilities here-to-fore forbidden to him. This crisis and loss of control had somehow propelled him past his inculcated inhibitions. He felt his body moving as if he did not move it, leaving the holy chamber as if in a trance. As he walked, priests averted their gaze. He knew that the High Prax, after speaking his judgment, had turned his back on him. Until the Rite of Purification was completed, looking upon him risked contagion.

As he moved, his thoughts were filled with new possibilities. Those who were krem-krem had certain opportunities other candidates did not. Ascension was lost, but forbidden roads were opened by way of sin, for those who dared. There were the Twisting Bridges, the Paths of Profane Geometry, or the Depths of Shadows, among others. Heretical, composed of pariahs, but each had their place and function and were begrudgingly and secretly accepted by the High Church. A toleration born of necessity. But he must escape, somehow…

Was this another planned temptation? What had happened? He must meditate on it during the Rite. He would have time and much solitude. The painful rites would send him to the Other Space, and there he would have a much needed clarity in timelessness and could recover and cultivate his spiritual strength.

He would have to make his choice and take action, however, before the rite was complete. Afterwards, he would only be fit for service as a krem-skel, a cleaner of filth and doer of menial tasks. He doubted he could tolerate the daily rituals of humiliation of that position, and, once the purification was complete, he would have no more vital spiritual strength.


Gargantuan, rounded stone slabs form sky-high, concentric rings at the center of which sits a small, cold, solitary, circular chamber. It is here that the Rite of Purification occurs. Water, the only allowed sustenance for the body during the ritual, drips slowly, drop by drop, from above into the center-point of the chamber. Its echoes can be heard throughout the zone, which is silent except for the sounds of the Purificant or the occasional Ministers, who provide cleansing tortures to the body, mind, and spirit.

His body already ritually purged of food-stuff and waste matter, Kem knelt, naked and shorn of all hair, in the position of obeisance, spine erect, head tilted back, mouth open, receiving the nourishing yet poisonous drops as he meditated. He had learned at the end of his first year as an acolyte the means by which bodily and psychological pain can serve as the gateway to the Other Space. He knew the way well and navigated with skill. As quickly as his control had vanished from him during the convocation, it had reappeared. He felt already that his being had been voided of krem-krem. How strange…

It was rumored among the neophytes that the water of this place contained subtle poisons which while taking vital energy from the body enhanced spiritual potential and progress. An irony, considering the end result of the rite. Using the spirit to permanently cripple it.

It was here–the Other Space, the place of silence, where the body and emotions were but memories–that he dwelled, chanting the sacred phonemes which would purify him of krem-krem and purge his spirit of the remnants of Kamalah.

Much of it was a repetition of his early training, but with an increased intensity. The last part, however, would forever bar his spirit from the Path of Z-El, the path of spiritual power which is the privilege and domain of Praxes. It was a form of spiritual castration. It would deprive him of his source of primal, creative spiritual energy. He would be forced to live off of the reserves his acolyte training had created and taught him to store deep within his sacred vessels.

He would be a faded shadow of a real being, living not as a human and yet not as an animal.

The Rite of Purification killed many. Many others committed suicide before completing it. Death, the ultimate purifier, was always an option for disgraced Praxes who had fallen to krem-krem and embraced Kamalah.

Poison or not, he would use what was offered him to gain spiritual strength and clarity. It would be some time before he would be forced to chant the destructive phonemes which would disintegrate the generative organs of his energy body, yet some of the sounds of the chants he now recited were unknown to him and felt strangely suspect. Could it be that he was imperiling himself by participating in the rite at all? No matter. There was no choice. For the present, he was trapped.

He must find a means of escape, go through the ritual, or commit suicide. Those were his only choices, and to make his escape he must gather his spiritual strength and re-unite himself with supreme bodily control, of which the High Prax had somehow temporarily deprived him. The spirit must rule the body.

Within Other Space, somewhere in the distance was a faint echo of sensation. His spirit urged connection with the physical body. He reached out with the body which was not a body to connect with the world of imperfection. Spikes of throbbing pain threatened to enter his consciousness, though they could not reach him. Shadows and false ghosts. Impressions subject to perceptive frames which could change the very nature of the impressions. Such was the power of the spirit, a power which could control naming and labels because it was beyond them.

His body sensed footsteps. Strange, it was not time for the Holy Excruciation. Was this inconsistency a part of the ritual?

He performed the chant of acceptance and moved slowly back into the body, interpreting each assault of agony not as pain, but as sensation without judgment or classification attached. Thus, agony was not agony. Pain was not pain. What is the natureless nature of things before they are known? What is pain before it is pain? This was the lesson he had learned.

Kem returned, slowly, to his body. He began the slow, methodical post-meditation muscle exercises which would ease and nourish the body, relieving it from the stiffness of prolonged non-movement. Subtle and almost imperceptible flexing and releasing of every muscle group, improving blood flow and making the body once again limber and vital.

As he faced forward, stretched his arms upward, and inhaled, he felt a presence in the open archway to his chamber. By dint of sound patterns and scents upon the air, he recognized the identity of the figure. He allowed his eyes to remain closed as he greeted his visitor.

“Good afternoon, High Prax.” Kem sensed a reaction of surprise in the High Prax. Almost imperceptible. Contained and controlled, but there.

“What is this?” thought the High Prax, “Vanity? Insouciance? This is new. Insulting! Yet… interesting. Vital and aware when it should be otherwise.” He felt the impulse to grimace in his nervous system and redirected the nervous energies before they reached the muscles.

“I was right in making my choice,” he thought.

Although the High Prax had bristled inwardly at the brazen disrespect, he chose to ignore it. “I must be careful with this one. Soothing. He must sense no conflict,” he concluded.

“Good afternoon, Kem. I trust the purification proceeds as expected?”

“It proceeds as it will and must, your Sagacity.”

“Ah, does he accept?” the High Prax asked himself. The High Prax counted a few beats, performing a quick rite, cleansing and opening the gates of perception. “My mind must be empty of expectations and judgments! My consciousness is a mirror and reflects only truth, thus nothing can remain hidden!” Filled with pure sense data through the cleansed instruments of the body and its senses, his spirit perceived no duplicity or resentment in Kem’s statement. “Good,” he thought.

The High Prax nodded. “You must have many questions.”

“The questions of an impure being are only the graspings of a soul drowning in illusion. Like a mindless animal, it will reach for anything, thus, such grasping should not be trusted. Once I am cleansed, when I am once again with my spirit, only then will I seek answers for that which eludes me.”

“He endeavors to show me his faith, that he is not completely lost. He hopes!” thought the High Prax.

The High Prax smiled and replied, “Well spoken. Offering light in the darkness is a kindness, and it is the duty of the enlightened to provide. Such is the injunction. I offer an explanation, if you will have it.”

“I must take what is given,” replied Kem, who had finished his exercises and opened his eyes. He looked at the High Prax impassively.

The High Prax nodded, and thought, “He responds as a wandering Prax? Does he realize what he reveals by this? Does he seek to escape? Ah, Kem, do as you will. No matter. There is only one escape for you, my acolyte, and soon it shall reveal itself.”

“It was a test. You failed. I blame myself. You were not ready.”

Kem absorbed this, looking at the High Prax with a relaxed yet focused gaze, and nodded.

“His eyes! So clear when they should be dull. Is that little beast inside Kem betraying me? If so, he will suffer dearly. No… unthinkable. He is bound! Is it the water of the Holy Cylinder, perhaps? Some unforeseen interaction? No matter, no matter. But look at him! He’s reading me. What has caused this change? Is Kem aware of it? This must end quickly.”

“I have done you a great disservice. You could have been a great priest of Prax, and I took that from you. My assessment was in error. Though I am High Prax, I do not perceive all. I tested you for placement among the Five Circles.”

“So,” thought Kem, “this is how he tries to distract me. Candor. False sincerity. Was he testing me? I cannot sense incongruity, yet my spirit cannot accept these words.”

“Regret is for those who cannot accept reality,” Kem replied, “I accept my fate. The flavor of wine is only known in the tasting. I failed, and, so, infected myself with krem-krem and the taint of Kamalah. Indeed, I have felt the presence in the purging. I am being cleansed. It is for the best.”

“About that,” said the High Prax, “I am able to do a thing. Though the Rite of Cleansing is a necessity, if I can aid you, then I must. As High Prax, I am given a certain latitude.”

The High Prax then presented a small flask and a cup.

“The Nectar of Ibaz,” he said.

Kem could not restrain an involuntary look of surprise, no matter how slight. The High Prax smiled inwardly. “Ah, at times the sacred control yet evades him! He has not fully recovered. Good!”

“But such a thing is forbidden. I am krem-krem! Don’t I risk death?”

The High Prax allowed a smile. Kem regained enough control to prevent a physical reaction which showed his anger. “He seeks to deceive me! See? I give you a smile. An allowance which demonstrates our intimacy. More lies! Why? What is behind this?”

“As I said,” continued the High Prax, “I enjoy a certain latitude. Your impurity is definite, and fatal to your role as priest, but mild concerning the use of Ibaz. Ibaz only kills the truly degenerate spirit. You well know that the core of your spirit shall have its organs of generation neutralized. The quality of your life will then rely upon your past cultivation, which only began as an acolyte. In the best of cases, 20 years of vitality would be left, and that only with the most rigorous efforts of conservation. With the Nectar, you will have a full life. Your spirit will be nourished, although never again will you have the spiritual prowess of a follower of Z-El…”

Kem looked at the flask and small glass before him. “How much,” he asked, “should I take.”

“Ah. Usually, one must consume the Nectar in very small portions and that very slowly, but in this case… there is no time. I have had the holy chemists make a special preparation. Drink it all, and drink deeply. It will aid in your cleansing and will increase the quality of your life as a krem-skel. Regarding that, I will see to it that you hold a position that is the least unpleasant possible. A cleaner of dust in the libraries, perhaps.”

“You are most gracious, your sagacity.”

The High Prax nodded.

Kem observed the flask and the High Prax. His senses detected no poison. His body did not give a danger reaction. But his spirit… Yes. Deception. Yet, the spirit bade him to drink. Strange.

“Then you accept my gift? You may reject it, though the going will be more difficult for you. I warn you: beware the temptation of hardship and suffering! Some hardships strengthen, others weaken. Wisdom is to know the difference.”

“I do not trust my own judgment, High Prax. I trust yours. Though I am impure, if you bid me to drink, I shall drink.”

The High Prax nodded. He felt a wave of relief wash over him. Did Kem sense it? If so, there was no indication. Once Kem drank the Nectar, the problem would be solved.

With an expression showing no emotion, neither eagerness nor hesitation, the High Prax said, “Though those who are too impure and take the Nectar risk death. This is not the case with you, good Kem. Drink.”

Kem opened the flask and poured. He breathed the strong aroma and felt his body threaten to react involuntarily to the pleasure stimulus. Measuring and balancing himself, he slowly brought the cup to his lips and drank. The flavor created intense sensations which washed over his body.

He stopped.

“I risk sensuality…” he said.

The High Prax nodded. “No matter. You shall be purged. The Rite of Purification shall do its work. Drink. Drink it all and quickly.”

Kem did so. Liquid energy coursed through him and nourished his spirit as spirit transformed the crude body/sense-reactions into something more subtle and sublime, which could be stored in the secret vessels of his energetic being.

“I permit you to perform the Grand Rites of Cultivation and absolve you from the need to undergo your excruciations this night. They will re-commence on the morrow.”

“Praise to you, High Prax. You are most gracious.” said Kem.

The High Prax nodded, “Be at peace, good Kem. Sleep well tonight. All shall soon be as it should.”

“The poison is slow,” thought the High Prax, “but effective. Tomorrow the world will find itself rid of you. All will accept that your death was caused by your impurity.”

Even as the High Prax left, Kem steadied himself and began the Grand Rites of Cultivation, unaware that a slow poison was beginning to systematically destroy his body.

Taoist Inner Smile Meditation

Download the file here:

Inner Smile 24-bit 96 khz file (1.6G)

I’ve been wanting to use this interesting mic I have to create some audio files.

It’s a binaural mic that simulates the human head and ear, so that sounds are recorded in such a way that the sound is 3-dimensional.

I’ve made a personal rendition of the Taoist Inner Smile meditation. It’s a variation on the traditional meditation. If you want to learn about the “official” meditation, you can go to Mantak Chia’s site here:

Inner Smile Meditation by Mantak Chia

I am offering the complete 24-bit, 96khz version of the file for free to anyone who wants to download it. It is in FLAC format and is quite large (1.6G). The sound quality is amazing. If you download it, you can play it with VLC player, found at:

http://videolan.org

Use headphones, and make sure your player can play 24-bit 96khz file (VLC can) to get the full effect.

This is just the initial version. I plan to add multi-layer tracks with whispers and various sounds to enhance the experience. I’ll post that version up later when I have completed recording and mixing all of the effects.

The recording is long (1 hour, 30 min), but worth it. I mix a bunch of stuff I’ve learned from hypnosis, NLP, and meditation all together in the track. Once you’ve listened to it, you can then just go through the meditation yourself in your own mind, as quickly as you want to, whenever you want.

I use a lot of repetition and reinforcement in the recording, so I think one listening will probably be enough to learn the meditation and then do it yourself without the recording any time you want.

You just go through “smiling” into the various important parts of your body (brain, throat, heart, lungs, liver, pancreas, kidneys, digestive system, sexual organs, and dantien). And then circulate your energy up your back along your spine, over and in your head, and down the front center of your body, then back up again, etc. The recording will make everything clear.

I’ve also included a lower quality soundcloud version for those who want to listen but don’t want to download the big file. However, I suggest taking the time to download the large file if you have the bandwidth.

You can listen to the file on soundcloud here:

 

When listening, make sure to take off your shoes and glasses. Wear comfy, loose-fitting clothing. You can listen sitting or lying down and just allow yourself to shut off. Just pay attention to the words. That’s it. It’s an effortless meditation.

Python and Selenium

The School Information System (an application which manages a database which contains relevant information about faculty, staff, and students which also helps with communications, grade-book management, and other kinds of functions) we use handles new user passwords in a really shitty fashion. It gives each new user the same default password.

You can’t change this password through any kind of batch or global process, but you can, as admin, go to each user in the web interface and click a “Reset Password” button.

I didn’t see much of a problem with parents, because which parents are going to know that other parents are going to have the same password?

Students, however, are another issue altogether. I can totally see two students confiding in one another and discovering that their passwords are the same. I can also imagine them putting two-and-two together and attempting to log in as other students, setting their own passwords, and performing all kinds of shenanigans.

I decided we could get a staff member or two together and handle the issue by each tackling a grade per day in a process of cutting and pasting from an excel spreadsheet I made for usernames and passwords for students.

We started doing it, and I thought, oh no… there must be a better way. So I looked online and found some software which would help automate the process. It was fully functional for a trial period of 30 days. So, it worked.

But afterwards I was thinking, wait a minute… I used to program. There has to be a way to do this programmatically that isn’t too difficult.

I did a lot of googling and found various entries in stackexchange that I found more or less helpful. I looked at python and mechanize. I saw suggestions about using urllib and urllib2.

But then I found a gem: selenium.

Python and selenium are awesome. Selenium hijacks a browser of your choice and can get information via a very large number of query functions. It can also send clicks and keystrokes to various buttons, fields, etc. in the web-browser.

So, setting up a test program which would log in to the website and log out was a snap. It took me around a minute to inspect objects and write the functions for them.

I have yet to add functions to read in a csv file and loop logging in, changing passwords, and logging out, but that part is trivial.

I have to say, though, that if I need to do any repetitive form-filling processes over the web in the future, I have a simple means by which to do so.

Here is the code for those who may be curious, to find out how simple it is:

import time

from selenium import webdriver
from selenium.webdriver.common.keys import Keys

driver = webdriver.Firefox()
driver.get("https://www.website.com")
elem = driver.find_element_by_name("UserName")
elem.send_keys("jdoe@thisistheusername.net")
elem2 = driver.find_element_by_name("Password")
elem2.send_keys("jdoepassword123")
elem2.send_keys(Keys.RETURN)
time.sleep(5)
driver.get("https://www.website.com/logoffurl")

driver.close()

Make Your Own Healthy Soda

I am a total soda and cola addict.  I have gotten so used to drinking something sweet and carbonated with a zing that if I spend a day without having one, I will really miss it.

I’ve tried to quit, and I’ve found quitting soda harder than quitting cigarettes.

But, do you really have to quit? I’ve come to find that, no, you do not!

I bought myself a SodaStream a long time ago and have played around with ideas for healthy soda substitutes, and I’ve finally hit on something.

The soda I make is sugar free, healthy, and actually delicious.  It’s something I look forward to drinking.  And it’s easy to make.

All you need is a good brand of stevia (I prefer KAL), some packets of fruit/berry tea you like, and some apple cider vinegar.

I let three packets of tea steep in a cup of hot water until fully cooled and infused with flavor.  I add this to the SodaStream 1 liter bottle and fill the rest of the space up with filtered water.  I charge the water to the desired level of carbonation.  I then add 3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar and 3 little scoops of stevia (the KAL stevia comes with a tiny spoon) to the container, close it, and give it a vigorous shaking.

I’ll either drink it right there with some ice or put it in the fridge to cool.

It really is delicious.  You get the health benefits from the tea (if any) along with the health benefits of pure water (if you’ve filtered it well) and apple cider vinegar… all in a delicious, tangy, excitingly sweet beverage that feels like a total indulgence!

I hope you try it. You’ll get hooked.

Brad Dourif’s Hair

I recently watched a video on youtube in which actor Brad Dourif talks about his hair transplant.

There are several uncomplimentary, undignified cuts to a closeup of his hairline during the interview.  The piece was obviously concocted as an advertisement for the doctor or clinic which performed the procedure.

I have mixed feelings about cosmetic surgery. On the one hand, I think it is pure vanity. Ideally, it would be better for us to accept the indignities and problems of old age, as these make us more human and, to use a cliché, “build character.”  On the other hand, even at age 44, I can see how frail our egos are and how hard it can be to deal with the realities of aging.

As I watched the video, I felt bad.  I like Brad Dourif.  I admire him.  He is a talented actor and an intelligent man.  While his performances can be over the top,  they can also be sublime.  It is too bad that he has been typecast.

I like him.  And it made me a little sad and disappointed to see his reaction to his implant. I would like to think he was above such things, but he is not.

The video made me ask myself, “Well, who is?”

You can see, if you watch it, that he is happy and proud of his results.  He was ashamed of his receding hairline, and now he is not, because it is gone.  He repeated lines which I suspect were fed to him by the clinic.  He claims that he thinks he is getting more roles and that appearance is important for an actor.  I am sure those considerations are true, but those reasons, I think, serve to hide the real reason he had the procedure: ego and vanity.

I think I am too idealistic, and in being too idealistic I am judgmental.  They are both bad things.

So, we are human.  Because we are human we are imperfect.  We are vain.  We have fragile egos.  We care more about superficial things in daily life than the deeper values which should really matter.  We take action to improve our appearances, while we do little to fundamentally improve ourselves and our world.  Trivialities preoccupy us.

So, that is the way it is.  Perhaps it is a mistake to think by having one we deny ourselves the other.  Perhaps it is possible to be flawed and noble at the same time? Perhaps a preoccupation with our petty human flaws (ego, vanity, jealousy, gossip, etc.) is just as bad as (or maybe worse than) a preoccupation with our appearance?

I guess I never considered it that way, but it’s true.  I think being too idealistic is a way of being petty.

Package Delivery Blues

A delivery company, whose name I shall not express (ahem), has some lazy, lying, sack-of-shit employees for delivery staff on my route.

This delivery service doesn’t deliver. The drivers have placed packages at wrong addresses and claimed they could not gain entry into my complex (which is total bullshit) or to be otherwise unable to deliver to my address (also bullshit). Other delivery services encounter no such problems.

Many times I’ve had to intervene to get in my hands on a package from them.

After a while of this, I became proactive. Whenever I saw through tracking information that this company was involved, I’d call them and have them hold the package at a company facility to which I would drive. I’ve had good luck with that. I think it is because the carrier has to have more accountability when she brings the package to a pickup location (another employee has to receive it). When delivering to a customer, “leaving the package at the door,” they could scan it and toss it wherever.

I wonder if their scanners tag confirmations with GPS data. It would help ensure against abuse by a driver who was being lazy.

A recent order “delivered” by this company, once again, registered as delivered to my front door when no package is in sight. Hopefully it got delivered to an honest neighbor and will find its way to me soon.

 

Surprise Therapy

Recently, I had an opportunity to talk candidly with someone who greatly resembled an authority figure who was prominent during many years of my early childhood. She was curious and asked me about my childhood, what kind of child I was, if I was philosophical as a child or not.

I found myself spilling the beans on many issues I had as a child, which I would never have disclosed to such a person when I was young. I talked about how I related—rather how I did not relate—to social groups and how I was generally treated by other children.

I spoke about it easily, a-matter-of-factly, and she listened and nodded. She commiserated with me on a few points.

I enjoyed the conversation, but thought nothing of it for a while.

That evening, while at home, I found myself going through various memories and issues I had, processing them, talking to myself about them, thinking about things I wish I had said and to whom and how I wish I had said them.

I realized that my younger self needed a good talking to that he never got. He needed to have what he was going through discussed and explained to him from an adult perspective. He needed to learn about understanding people, opinions, biases, and the reactions people have to various phenomena and why they have the reactions they do.

I needed to understand that people often react out of ignorance, social conditioning, or out of something base, animal. The fact that person or even a whole group of people is/are being ugly to you doesn’t mean that you are ugly. What it certainly means, however, is that they are being ugly. A person should understand these issues in a way that enables  him or her to realize that another person’s ugliness does not reflect on oneself. It reflects on the other person.

I also needed to learn about values, social values, and how they work—that different cultures have different values, different beliefs about what is good, bad, ugly, beautiful, worthwhile, worthless, and so forth. These things are not cut into stone. They are often arbitrary. There is something of value to be found in every human being as he or she is. No one should have to feel like he or she has to put on an act to be worthwhile, accepted, or lovable. It does not matter what a group thinks or communicates about their opinions about your worth. It is what you realize about yourself that matters.

I went to sleep and had some unusual dreams in which I started to take charge of events. There was one part of the dream where I took a gun and fired it at bandits. Usually in my dreams guns misfire or something else happens that makes the gun useless. In this dream, however, I fired the shots confidently and scared the hell out of the bandits and made them think twice about their shenanigans, letting them know that if they were violent, then I’d be violent too and that they’d have to pay for it—maybe more than they were willing to.

After I woke up, I was beset by a series of ideas.

It occurred to me that understanding alone isn’t enough. One must have the courage to face that of which one is afraid. It is ok to have fear. You will never rid yourself of it. What is important is that you learn to be yourself even though you have fear—to somehow become comfortable with it and be able to be yourself and respond as yourself while within its presence.  Live your own truth. Give testimony to your truth when others try to squelch it.

Then you can try to lessen or rid yourself of fear. If you try to do it before then, you will simply still be afraid of fear. You will be avoiding fear. Fear must be faced, and it must ultimately be faced down.

So, no, fear. Not today. Not now. I’m willing to take the risk and pay the price for being myself.

I would like to somehow make it easier to be courageous and to face my fear. I know that this is trying to avoid fear, but I would seriously like to have a little something in my corner helping me out in times of trouble.

I think I am going to make a list of many times I have been courageous in various ways and go through those experiences in my mind until I learn something that might help me when the proverbial shit hits the fan or it looks like it will.

Long story short, it was a wonderful thing to have serendipitously told an authority figure something I wish I had said, and said and discussed often, over 35 years ago. It was very therapeutic. I had no idea that doing so would have such an effect.

Aztecs

Stone steps ascending to the unknown,
A bright, star-filled darkness,
Where invisible gods dance
To music we cannot hear
And brightly colored
Flowers and feathers
Adorn the bodies
Of slaughtered, young lovers.

Statement by Jimmy Carter on the Voyager Probe

Among other media and information, the Voyager Probe contains this statement by Jimmy Carter:

“This Voyager spacecraft was constructed by the United States of America. We are a community of 240 million human beings among the more than 4 billion who inhabit the planet Earth. We human beings are still divided into nation states, but these states are rapidly becoming a single global civilization.

We cast this message into the cosmos. It is likely to survive a billion years into our future, when our civilization is profoundly altered and the surface of the Earth may be vastly changed. Of the 200 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy, some–perhaps many–may have inhabited planets and spacefaring civilizations. If one such civilization intercepts Voyager and can understand these recorded contents, here is our message:

This is a present from a small distant world, a token of our sounds, our science, our images, our music, our thoughts, and our feelings. We are attempting to survive our time so we may live into yours. We hope someday, having solved the problems we face, to join a community of galactic civilizations. This record represents our hope and our determination, and our good will in a vast and awesome universe.”

It was among several images I found on an imgur page from a link on reddit.  I had seen some of the images before, but do not remember having ever read his statement.

I think it’s beautiful.

For much of of my adult life, I have found myself jaded–especially within the past 10 or so years.  But seeing the images of human life and knowledge contained on Voyager as well as the president’s statement, it re-acquainted me with the friendliness and innocence of mankind.  It also filled me with a sense of hope.

There are those among us who are intelligent and friendly, those who want to greet, cooperate, and share.  This, I think, is the essential human spirit.  It is what makes us who we are, and it is the hope for our species.  Our hope does not lie in provincialism, anger, greed, or smugness–things of which I have seen a lot in people lately.

I think that looking at the content of Voyager is important.  It gives us a particular view of mankind.  We are children in a big universe.  We have to cooperate if we, as a species, are going to reach adulthood.

Eyes – Horror Short Story

eyes

My seventh son was born without eyes.  In the place where each eye should have been, he had teeth.  These teeth were surrounded by lips in place of eyelids.  The jaws within each socket were considered fully functional by the doctors.  Each mouth had a tongue and throat-like passage which connected to the child’s throat proper.  I was more amazed than horrified at this strange occurrence, having seen this child of mine born with three mouths, two of which prematurely contained teeth, having heard it cry with three mouths. The cry was of two distinct voices, not three or one as you might suppose.  One was a cry of fear and pain, a cry of being born in to a cold and unknown world.  The other was the shrill cry of ravenous hunger.

My wife died giving birth.  I never really cared for her.  She was a warm, wet hole into which I spat my lust.  Nothing more.  My lust was greater than her.  Greater than anything she could have ever been.  I was surprised that she could, even given the union with my desire, produce such a thing as this child.

The doctors, who I despise, who exist without any fascination or regard for anything, having no drive, no lust, had little reaction to this occurrence, save some professional intrigue at this mutation.  Of course, they suggested the course of “corrective surgery” on the child if such a thing was possible, which it was not.  All veins and tissues that supported the function of the two unlikely mouths, the two unlikely throats, were connected to several other major veins and tissues of the child’s face.  To alter these mouths or throats in any significant way would disfigure permanently the rest of the child’s face and would put the child’s life at risk.  This, of course, could not be done.  The other suggestion was to surgically alter the lips, to make them look more like “normal” eyelids, and to sew them up.  I would not have it.  I wanted the child the way he was.

I reared the child alone, bringing as little attention to him from my so-called friends and associates as possible.  It was a task that my wife’s timely death made easy.  This was the child that killed my wife in being born.  No one had the desire to ask to see it.  My friends and associates were far too polite for that.

I knew very little about caring for a child.  My first six died at birth.  I found most of it surprisingly easy.  Most of it, except feeding.  Feeding the child was a problem, always a problem, an incessant, unbearable problem.  The child’s “proper” or larger mouth demanded fairly normal, almost less than normal, attention.  It was the other two mouths the laid in place of the child’s eyes that create an intolerable nuisance.  These mouths, without end, hungered and cried for food.   They devoured amounts the one would consider unhealthy, amounts that left the child bloated and crying.  These two mouths cried for food, always for food, and nothing else.  They knew no pain except hunger, and their hunger was eternal.  At one point they cried and cried no matter what I fed them.  They would eat whatever I poured into them and would still manage to scream unrelentingly.  I had to ignore this incessant yelping.  I knew that these mouths would consume to the point of killing the child.  So I did not feed them.  I kept all sustenance from them and ignored their hellish wails until I found out, by accident, what they had been craving.

The child was sitting at the table in the kitchen when I was moving raw meat from the freezer to the counter in preparation for a meal.  Upon smelling it, the child’s two mouths began the shrill screeching I had come to know too well.  Curious, I cut a few scraps and held one in front of the child’s face.  His head flew forward, the two mouths snapping and ripping at the meat.  I had to drop it and withdraw my hand for fear of my fingers being bitten.

It became apparent that it would be impossible for me to raise this child without letting the outside have any contact with him.  I invited only the most intimate of my friends to come over to see him.  There was an initial shock and curiosity regarding these two mouths in place of eyes.  The apprehension and interest ended quicker than one might expect, almost unnaturally so.  The child was beautiful, despite the mouths… or perhaps because of them.  He was pleasant to be around and play with when the mouths were satiated.  I always fed the two mouths well with blood and meat before guests arrived and always had the guests leave at the slightest sign of hunger. The way the child devoured his food was not a sight for guests to behold.  The two mouths had long tongues which would flick and curl around the child’s face, searching for blood and pieces of meat which always slid down from the gnashing teeth and over the lips.  The teeth would snatch and rip and gnaw.  Blood would often splatter over the dark wooden table at which the child ate and on the cold white shiny tiles of the floor.  I would spend hours caring for the child’s mouths.  In fact, the child and his two mouths seemed to be two separate entities.  The mouths required more care and attention than all the other parts and needs of the child put together.

Soon the child learned to feed himself.  He could not feed his two mouths with his hands.  The mouths would devour his fingers as soon as they would anything else.  Great care had to be taken, but the child learned quickly.   The child learned everything quickly.

The were no difficulties until he learned how to speak.  It was after he learned how to speak through his normal mouth that the two mouths began making strange and vulgar noises.  clicks and groans and screeches began to pour out of these mouths like blood from a deep wound.  Shortly after the child became verbal, these mouths began shrieking vulgarities with the voice of a sick old woman.  This voice was, perhaps, more abrasive and sickening than what was actually being said, which in itself foul beyond description.  The voices were unnaturally loud and caused the child to cry.  They became so unbelievably loud that they caused the child’s ears to bleed and the neighbors to complain.  It became necessary to control them and their incessant squawking as well as their appetite, which was growing at an alarming rate.

I explained to the child that he must control both his appetite and these voices.  Remarkably, he was able to gain some control over it.  The vocal outbursts became less and less frequent, and the cries for food were controlled if not abated for some time.

After the neighbors had grown accustomed to the fact of such an unusual child lived nearby, I allowed him to play in the back yard.   It was by his own accord, however, that he avoided other children and playing in the front of the house.  When I asked him about this, he merely replied that “It is safer.”  I never asked him to elaborate on that statement, for I always respected him and his stated wishes, which were few but succinct.

Around the age of five, his mouths began to change their appetites.  They refused to eat the raw meat which was offered to them.  I had encountered this problem before and had solved it by changing the kind of meat that I served.  It did not, however, work this time–perhaps for the better, for I was running out of alternatives, alternatives withing so-called legal and moral bounds by any rate.

It was about this time that I found a variety of dead animals in the back yard.  First it was birds, then squirrels.  These animals always had particular parts missing from them and other portions left intact or semi-intact.  In the initial period, these portions were cut off nearly, apparently with a knife.   After a while, it appeared as if they were ripped apart by teeth.  I found blood from this on the child’s clothes.  I discussed this situation with the child.  He silently listened and nodded.  He said he understood but admitted that he could no longer control the appetites of his mouths anymore and that if he tried to deny them what they wanted he would experience a pain he found unbearable.  He apologized for the mess and said that he would find a way to manage.  After this, there were no more animals in the yard or messes on his clothing.

After I learned that he could satisfy his hunger in secrecy, I hired a professor from the local university (a dear friend of mine) to home school the child.  The professor was a dynamic individual of various interests (a mortician and occultist, among other things) who held a great capacity for enduring the bizarre without the slightest flinch.  He was perfect.  He schooled the child and was amazed by him.  The child’s scope of interest was broad and his hunger for learning was without parallel.  The good professor did not question the strange hours and being required to leave once the child began to exhibit changes in behavior I had learned to detect which indicated hunger or an oncoming fit.  The professor, being a good friend, merely accepted the fact that when I indicated it was time to leave that he must do so and as soon as possible.

During the child’s sixth year, I looked into the refrigerator and found what I thought were several marbles, smooth, shiny, and white as milk, lying between the gleaming rods of metal that made up the shelves.  Three rows sat, containing 27 spheres of different sizes.  Looking closer, I realized that these were not marbles at all.  Underneath, on the almost glowing white bottom of the cold interior of the refrigerator were cakes of reddish brown.  Coagulated blood.  They were eyes.  The child must have procured them and placed them there for safe keeping.  They were apparently those of small children and animals, for in the neighborhood several had been reported missing in the past few weeks.  I began to worry for the safety of the child.  But if this sort of thing was necessary, then it was necessary.  The child had appetites.  He had needs.  And he was clever.   He had not been caught so far.  Wherever the bodies of the victims were, they had yet to be found.

I installed the basement freezer and brought the child down to show it to him.  I looked at him and said, “This is for you, do you understand?”  He nodded.  After that, I found no more surprises in the kitchen.

My friend,. the professor, soon gave me notice that he would not be rendering his services anymore.  He admitted to me that the child had begun to disturb him long ago, but not unbearably so.  It was only recently that the teeth of the child’s mouths began grinding audibly in the most unnerving way during lessons and that the child began making obscene noises through the mouths in his eye sockets.  It was when they started grinning and cackling at him that he decided that he should leave.  He went on about the impression the child had left him with; the child sitting in the room, his smiling teeth glinting in the darkness, making shrill laughter-like noises and making predictions about the deaths of the professor’s loved ones, of whom he never spoke about to the child and of whom I had never spoken of as well.  I paid the man generously and gave him my thanks, and apologized for any pains he had suffered in doing his work.

The two mouths had begun to control more and more of the child’s behavior.  After accepting my friend’s resignation, the two mouths began to screech the words, over and over, “Kill him!  Kill him!” to me, and described scenarios in which I could cause his death and make it look like an accident.  I cannot describe the number of times they related such things to me, nor can I account the variety of ways in which they contrived his death.  It unbearable.  The mouths only stopped when I threatened surgery to have them removed.

On the morning of what would have been the child’s seventh birthday, I found what was left of his body in his room.  The child had eaten himself.  Every part of the child that could be consumed by the mouths in the eye sockets had been eaten, and what I found was a mass of gore, atop of which sat the child’s uppermost torso.  The one mouth was in a grimace of agony, the two others, bloody and smiling.  His appetite had groped in every direction until it found what it had been craving.  All his life, the child’s two mouths had been hungering for himself.

Nootropics – Sunifiram Experiences

General Information about Sunifiram

Sunifiram is a cognition-enhancing drug that is available over the counter.  It is one of the “newer” nootropics (drugs used to enhance memory or cognitive functions).  According to wikipedia:

Sunifiram (DM-235) is a piperazine derived ampakine-like drug which has nootropic effects in animal studies with significantly higher potency than piracetam.”

Also according to wikipedia, it has the following mechanisms of action:

  • Sunifiram activates AMPA-mediated neurotransmission.
  • It enhances LTP in a bell-shaped dose–response relationship. This enhancement by sunifiram is associated with an increase in phosphorylation of AMPAR through activation of protein kinase II (CaMKII) and an increase in phosphorylation of NMDAR through activation of protein kinase C α (PKCα). More specifically, sunifiram stimulates the glycine-binding site of NMDAR with concomitant PKCα activation through Src kinase. Enhancement of PKCα activity triggers hippocampal LTP through CaMKII activation.
  • Sunifiram improves cognitive deficits via CaM kinase II and protein kinase C activation. PKC activation may be a common mechanism amongst cognition stimulating drugs from different chemical classes.
  • Sunifiram aids in the release of acetylcholine in the cerebral cortex.

Typical dosage is between 4 and 11 milligrams per 150 lbs.

You can find detailed information about the drug at http://examine.com/supplements/Sunifiram/

Most importantly, the safety information found on examine.com about sunifiram states: “A study noting efficacy of sunifiram (0.001mg/kg denoted minimum effective dose) failed to find any overt toxic symptoms with a 1000-fold higher dose injected (1mg/kg).”

First Experience

Summary

I have heard people describe LSD (at a low dosage) as a drug that increases awareness.  Colors become more vivd.  You see more clearly.  Sounds have greater depth and clarity.  The world becomes more alive and fascinating.  It seems as if the filters that prevent sensory information from reaching the brain are somehow disabled or changed in a manner that lets more information through.  The downside of this is sensory overload.  Sunifiram had a similar kind of effect on me, however the world did not become entrancing, and there were no sensory distortions.  I was never out of it, fixated by something, or hallucinating. To the contrary, I found my overall attention and sobriety increased.  My visual and audio acuity increased.  I experienced more of what was around me.

I found things, at times, to be a little overwhelming and experienced some anxiety.  What I found most challenging were shifts in my attention caused by changes in my environment.  The attention shifted easily, but the influx of new information at a greater intensity than normal was somewhat jarring and made me anxious.  I simply was not used to it.  I had no problem controlling my attention, but whatever I attended to came in more fully, providing more information about the world around me than usual.  This taxed my mind/body and produced anxiety.  I believe this is something I can adapt to and is probably related to the strength of the dose I took (which was close to the recommended dose for my body weight).

Caveat

I am a little skeptical about my first experiences with substances because I am well aware of the placebo effect and how suggestible I can be at times.

That said, I will just give an account of my experiences as they occurred without speculating too much as to whether they were the products of sunifiram or not.  Details from subsequent experiences should create a more accurate picture.

Experience

I was very excited when the nootropics arrived (I ordered noopept, phenylpiracetam, and sunifiram), and I wanted to try sunifiram first.  It is considered a non-piracetam type drug, and I have tried various kinds of “racetams.”  I was eager for a new experience.

I was shocked to see just how little a pile of 7 milligrams of powder looks.  My scale is accurate to ~3 milligrams, so I was unsure as to exactly how much I was getting.  The amount, however, was very tiny.  It could easily fit on the tip of my pinky without falling off.

I may have taken anywhere between 4 and 10 milligrams.  I am around 160 lbs.

I wet my finger and rubbed the powder off of the small, metal weighing dish, and then rubbed along the inside of my mouth underneath my tongue to saturate the tissues with it.

I think I could start to feel the effects within 5 to 10 minutes.  It started to peak at around 15-20 minutes.

It increases awareness and stimulates.  I became very, very aware of myself and my surroundings, mostly of sounds.  They were very clear.  When I locked the door to my apartment, the sound of my keys clinking together was exceptionally clear, almost hypnotic.  I was amazed at the clarity. I experienced a heightened awareness of the ambient sounds of my apartment complex as I walked through the halls.

My visual field was slightly different than usual.  I cannot quite say how.  At times it was almost as if I had tunnel vision, but not really.  I was just very focused on whatever caught my attention, but not necessarily to the exclusion of other things, not like being transfixed.  Just very attentive.

I did not notice more efficiency in thinking or improvements in memory.  The increase of sensory awareness regarding sound and vision was very distracting.  It’s not like I couldn’t contemplate.  I just didn’t want to.  I was too involved in the world around me.

I did not experience changes in body heat or increased sweating as some individuals reported on reddit.

I played a game of pathfinder with friends, and I found it a little strange.  There was a new person, and I am sometimes nervous around new people, unless there is something about the person that is very comforting or disarming. Perhaps the sunifiram was agitating social anxiety.  I cannot comment upon that accurately.  I can only speculate.  It was my only social experience while on it.

The drug created a kind of schism between my normal sense of self and what was going on in the world around me.  I could experience my surroundings acutely, but not necessarily process the information adequately.  I suppose I could liken it to when I was learning saber fencing.  When I got comfortable, the instructor would increase the speed and complexity of things, and this would not allow me to think or orient myself.  I had to react.

Sunifiram seemed to be increasing my overall sensory awareness, and the increased input was just too much to handle in my normal mode of being.

It put me off-balance in a number of ways. Socially, I handled it by being somewhat reserved and focusing mostly on the interactions which made me feel most comfortable.  There are a few very friendly, humorous people in our gaming group, and I tried to focus as much as I could on interacting with them and ignoring what I didn’t like.

After an hour or two of gaming, the new member started lightening up, smiling, and being more participatory.  She also smiled at me a few times and laughed at a few thing I said (intending to be funny).  As she started to unwind, so did I.

I normally would not feel as much social anxiety when meeting a new person in a similar scenario.  I think having a new person in our group along with a heightened level of sensory sensitivity created a feeling of imbalance and overwhelm which resulted in anxiety.

I listened to some music while driving as I decided the effect of the drug would not impair my driving ability.  The experience of the music was akin to what some people have described under the effects of marijuana, but not entrancing.  The increased musical awareness was not distracting or irritating, rather, it was pleasant.  I had no desire to turn the music off, and when driving needed my absolute full attention, I was completely unaware of the music, as is normal for me when driving.  I could tell that if I were in another situation, I could really relax and enjoy the music more fully than usual.  I would like to spend some comfortable time alone listening to music while under the effects of sunifiram.  I think that would be very enjoyable.  It may also assist in language acquisition in that you may hear inflections and other vocal variations better, so I may try it while listening to a pimsleur recording.

I noticed that I was very aware of the situations on the highway and the various vehicles around me.  I became somewhat anxious, as I began to worry that the drug might affect my attention in some kind of dangerous way, putting other drivers and me at risk.  In the end, there was nothing to worry about.  I probably drove better than usual, as I was more aware.  Again, I did not find myself attending to one thing at the expense of other important sensory input, such as focusing on one car while unconsciously and dangerously filtering out what is going on with other cars around me as in a trance-like or super-focused way.  I did, however, find, at times, the experience of shifting attention from one thing to another as is necessary when driving to have a kind of jarring effect.  Not super bad, but disconcerting.  This was when I started to worry that the drug might impair my driving ability.  It is hard to describe.  It wasn’t as though it was hard to move from one thing to another, to be brought from one thing to another.  That was easy.  What was hard was the intensity of the new incoming information.  When I needed to be aware of something, such as a car moving into an adjacent lane or something like that, I was *very* aware of it when it happened, and then, once I saw the car had moved in to the adjacent lane, I was *very* aware of the road in front of me and where I needed to go.  I think the attentional shifts were creating some anxiety.

Thoughts

In retrospect, I think that what is going on with the anxiety I experienced was a matter of familiarity and adaptation.  I normally have a bit of brain fog, there are certain things that remain dull and certain things that are clear and in focus.  What happened was the sunifiram suddenly brought a hell of a lot more into clarity and focus and my brain was just like, WTF?  What am I going to do with all this information?  My attention, I think, was being over-taxed.

When I try another dose, I will either take less or take the same amount but choose to remain indoors in an environment with stable, controlled input.  Not something as dynamic as driving or socially interacting with a group and an unfamiliar person.

Recommendations

Right now I cannot say with confidence that I could recommend or advise against the use of sunifiram.  I do not have enough experiences with it.

What I can say is that it is a powerful substance and that you should be careful regarding the dosage and setting when first taking it.  I had some anxiety in my experience.  I could imagine what it could have been like had I taken too large of a dose or had been in a very stressful situation.  It could have been a nightmare.

I can see the benefits of using it to enhance various aesthetic experiences.  I can say with some certainty that watching nature, going to an art museum, listening to music, etc., would be enhanced by sunifiram.

I imagine that it may help a person remain aware and sharp when fatigued.  However, since I have not used it when mentally or physically fatigued, I cannot recommend its use in that scenario.  Will it make you feel mentally refreshed?  Or will you feel like an exhausted horse being relentlessly whipped?  Some stimulants taken during exhaustion can have that effect.

I also imagine that it may be helpful for study or problem solving, but, again, I will need to test it in those activities before I can make a useful comment in that regard.

Second Sunifiram Experience

Dose: 5 milligrams or less

I made sure to decrease the dose, and I also took some phosphatidylcholine, which is generally recommended when taking nootropics.  Many nootropics increase or otherwise affect acetylcholine in the brain. The theory is that more choline is used up when you take nootropics that increase acetylcholine levels.  Some negative effects from nootropics (such as crashes after using them) are attributed to not taking a choline supplement.

Experience

I could feel the stimulant effect, but not as heavily as before.  I experienced a slight increase in ease of concentration during mental tasks during my work day. The concentration felt very satisfying.  I felt as if I could apply myself just that little bit more fully to what I was doing.  This could, however, be due to the placebo effect.

Because I had a poor night’s sleep before, I had a lingering feeling of tiredness and also some general mental fog.  The sunifiram did not cut through that, and may have somehow contributed to it. I’m not sure.

I experienced a strange sensation of separateness like before but not as pronounced.  I just felt vaguely not there, as if some part of me was separated from my experience, adrift. I could, however, easily attend to what was going on around me, what people were saying, and the like.  I think that my experimentation with stimulating nootropics is affecting sleep.  It took me a while to get into deep sleep last night, and I did a lot of tossing and turning.

At the end of my work day I felt tired, but a little stimulated.  When I got home, I did not feel the need to take a nap or otherwise crash, but I did feel somewhat exhausted.

I experienced an increased enjoyment of music again, but this time it was not as pronounced as before.

Thoughts

I think today’s experience was a bit lackluster.  I want to find out just what exactly this stuff is good for.  I am already convinced that it is generally stimulating and does certainly affect attention and focus.  I am uncertain about the cons it might have in terms of affecting sleep and also possibly creating a crash.  More time and experience with it will yield more information.

I suspect that taking it on a day in which I am relaxed, have eaten well, am well rested, and am able to comfortably engage in a variety of tasks with no feeling of hurry or rush will show me most clearly what I want to know.

I plan to use it and read some fiction, listen to some music, meditate, write, and get some thinking done, all in a relaxed way.  It may be best to record my experiences right after they have occurred, wait a while, and the reflect and comment upon them later.

No More FB for Me, I Choose to Disconnect

A nice guy somehow acquires psychic powers. He finds he can telepathically receive the thoughts of those around him. At first he is fascinated, surprised, and disturbed by a new voice in his head. He’s waiting in the subway for the train to arrive and looking at another guy. He hears, “Why is that weirdo looking at me?” He realizes that he either must be going crazy or he’s actually hearing another person’s voice in his mind. Afraid, he looks around. As his gaze frantically shifts from person to person, he hears the voice of each. The number of voices and a growing sense of pressure both mount. He freaks out and runs away, hearing the echoes of thoughts like, “Jesus, crazy freak!” and “What the hell is wrong with him?” and “Fucking crazies …”

Sooner or later, he meets a mentor. Some person catches his eye and projects, “I know you can hear me. It’s ok.” Suddenly, the other voices vanish. The mentor continues, telepathically, “You need to learn how to control it. Otherwise, you’ll lose yourself and won’t know which thoughts are yours.”

This scene or one very much like it appears in a number of movies in which a character learns he has somehow developed the power to read minds. In doing so, the person, usually a nice guy who has miraculously peachy keen, nonjudgmental thoughts, will say something like, “They are so ugly … I never knew people had such ugly thoughts.” I guess he’s the hero, and we have to identify with him. And, of course we don’t have those nasty kinds of thoughts running through our heads most of the time, so we feel that, hey, here’s a guy I can relate to.

In The Matrix, a friend of Neo’s named Choi drops by to pick up some illicit software or data. He sees that Neo looks pretty worn-down and tells him, “It just sounds to me like you need to unplug, man.”

For me, both scenes relate very strongly to the reality of Facebook.

The term “connection” is now ubiquitous. You cannot escape it. It seems a thing valued in and of itself. To be connected is good. To be disconnected is bad.

Decades ago, when I saw that cellphones were becoming pervasive (and invasive), I questioned the wisdom of it. I avoided owning a cellphone for as long as I could. I viewed them as electronic tethers.

I saw how, once you had a cellphone, people felt entitled to a connection with you, anytime and anyplace, regardless of any concerns or boundaries you might have. The old “ball and chain” is no longer a nagging, controlling wife, it’s any fucking wireless device.

Whether you see it or not, it’s a major issue now: boundaries. Our boundaries have been dissolving at an increasing rate for decades.

Way back in the day, before the internet, people with computers and modems connected with each other in a serial fashion. Hobbyists ran BBSs (Bulletin Board Systems) on home computers with dedicated phone lines. You would call them (only when the previous user had disconnected, it was a one-at-a-time thing) with your modem and your computer would connect. The connection speed by today’s standards would be considered hideously slow. Text at 300 baud would literally crawl across your screen.

I actually liked 300 baud. It gave me time to read the text.

And that’s what you did. You read the text that other people wrote. You had time. And those who authored what you read had time to write something that they had thought about. People who spouted the verbal diarrhea now accepted as the norm were viciously ridiculed. Their posts were literally a waste of time (text scrolled by slowly, remember), and regarding them the spacebar or n key was your friend. The spacebar aborted the post, the n key skipped directly to the next post.

You called a BBS because you wanted to read (which meant really consider and enjoy or revile) the content other people wrote, and, by-and-large (depending on which BBS you called), it was stuff worth reading. Collaborative fiction, interesting discussions, humor… it was a gold mine.

Not saying the internet now is not filled with all kinds of awesome. It is. And I do love it. But things were a bit different back then, and I miss it.

There was a wisdom to things back then that is now lost. Back then, there was an understood distinction between what came to be known as “cyberspace” (now an outdated and clumsy term) and “meat space” or IRL (in real life). We often used aliases and realized that there was a real difference between our online personas and our offline personas and our lives. “In real life” pretty much says it all. You were not to take what occurred online too seriously, and taking squabbles from BBSs into “real life” was taboo. You could get banned from a large number of local BBSs for it.

Now there is no separation. But the fact remains, people are somewhat different online. The boundaries, I think, are dwindling. The two worlds are conflating if not totally conflated already. I don’t think this is a good thing. People really don’t appreciate the difference anymore, and our behaviors have not caught up with this fact.

Although there is much less of a sense of anonymity, the feeling of freedom that anonymity gives you–which used to be a really good thing IMO–is still there. People say things online that they would never say in a face-to-face interaction. And they say it a lot. I would wager a large percentage of what people post willy nilly on their fb timelines are things they would never say to others face-to-face. (I’m including myself here and in much of what I have been saying people think and do online.)

We just don’t broach certain topics in social gatherings. The person who brings up politics, religion, or gender issues at a dinner with friends or at a party is considered a boor and is penalized with social pressure. Not so on fb. In fact, quite the opposite. Boorish behavior is often rewarded.

We have developed unspoken rules of etiquette for face-to-face social interactions which have evolved for thousands of years. We have netiquette for online interactions, but netiquette in its current form is dreadfully insufficient. Online behavior is often rude.  It’s negative effects on me have forced me to quit fb.

Netiquette has a lot of catching up to do. It’s more important that you do not type in all caps than to not get up on a soapbox or simply be ugly, complain, or whatever on fb. But they are essentially the same things! To spill whatever ugly thoughts or feelings you have on an issue. To pontificate. To complain. To say whatever you feel like whenever you feel like to an audience that sometimes numbers in the hundreds. Not everyone wants to see that shit. You go to a blog for rants, complaints, opinion pieces, or whatever. I don’t think they belong on something like fb. I am totally guilty of doing it myself, I know. I have learned from consideration that it is a mistake to do so.

People are learning about online consequences with regard to work and the law, but we don’t seem to be even near the clue train when it comes to the social and psychological effects our words have on our fellow human beings and ourselves when we post on fb.

So many people use fb as a soap box for various political or religious issues. Some people use it to condemn and ridicule others willy nilly. Some use it to simply be a spoiled brat and say things that more befit a rotten child than a mature adult. Sadly, these people are often lauded, told “OMG, You are so awesome! I love you!” People love it when a grown adult acts like a shitty 5 year old instead of the mature individual he or she should be? WTF? This demonstrates a fucked up value system.

I don’t want to read that shit. It disgusts me.

So, back to the scene in that movie about the psychic guy. Having quit fb, I have learned in retrospect that many of those thoughts which were being conveyed via so many lines of text, images with captions, links to articles, etc., here, there, and everywhere, were going straight into my head and affecting me emotionally.

Despite what I’d like to think and the admonition that, “You shouldn’t care what other people think,” I realize that I do care what other people think. Probably too much. And I cannot help it.

If I read a ton of filthy crap–and a lot of what people say is pretty much filthy crap–then I feel like filthy crap. I feel hurt, sad, angry, and somehow insecure, as if a number of things I had read were aimed at me. And, by way of an author’s use of generalizations, it kind of is aimed at me. People talk about this kind or that kind of person. Sometimes I am that person. White people. Men. People who do this or that. People who believe this or that.

So many fb posts = <bitch, rant, moan, complain, pontificate, blame, claim victimhood with no agency or personal causation in regard to the problem>.

A lot of shitty fb posts begin with or contain the words, “I wish.”  Well, I wish they would shut the fuck up. But I am not going to get my wish any time soon. Neither are they, conceptual posters of fb horeshit. So maybe we should do something mutually beneficial concerning this?

Personally, I hate it when people play the victim and do nothing about it except complain and drain energy. There is a metric fuck-ton of that on Facebook.

Regarding Facebook, I realized that, holy fuck, I feel victimized. Well? What am I doing about it? Just bitch? Claim victimhood on fb while demonstrating a fucked-up sense of entitlement like I find in so many posts that I hate?

No. I did the only thing I felt I could do. I quit Facebook.

Persevering

I guess the purpose of falling is to get back up, and it’s nice when we can. I think we often can, even when we feel like we can’t.

But the picture produced by the sentiment is usually a nice one. You just stagger up, wipe the dust off of your ass with a cowboy hat as you smile and laugh, and an audience laughs back and nods approvingly. And that’s that.

But it often isn’t like that. When it’s really important, those are the times when you’re like someone who has had the shit knocked out of him, and you go to get up, but fall again, and do it again and again and each time it really hurts and feels like a full-on failure. But you eventually get to a place where you can sit for a while. Then you try to take a step, and you might make a few, but then you fall again. And again.

But the thing is, it’s at that point that the sentiment is most important. That you just have to gather your strength and get back up, again, and again, and again, until you have a steady gait again and can go where you want to go.

And it might take a bunch of shenanigans to get yourself to do something like that… and a whole lot of your energy. So I guess we have to pick our wolves and let go of some stuff that is sapping our energy, and maybe some stuff we like… but that’s a matter of priorities.

None of us has an infinite amount of time here or an infinite amount of energy.

Quitting and Succeeding

Sometimes I think things are just not worth the effort or just not in the cards for me. But other times I think about the fact that I have quit smoking and just what that means.

I used to think that quitting smoking was impossible for me, and it really made me feel like shit. It made me feel like a weakling and a loser. I suspected that I could, at some point and in some way, manage to do it, but I was more convinced that the addiction had grown stronger than me, and at this point I could not do it.

But I could. And I did.

I did it in a very strange way. I did it by trying and failing several times. I did it by biding my time, by smoking while I wanted to smoke, getting all that smoking in while I still wanted to do it. I did it by being lazy. I did it by striking while the iron was hot. And I did it by kinda lying to myself… but in a way that was still kinda true.

Quitting smoking is not something you automatically get right the first time. It isn’t simply a matter of willpower. It is something you have to figure out how to do, because cigarettes are tricky. The addiction makes your mind and heart do all kinds of fucking things to keep you smoking cigarettes.

Besides the health benefits, the big thing that quitting smoking has done for me is this: I know now that losing at something and feeling like a total loser is not the same as being a total loser. Just because you think you don’t have it in you doesn’t mean that you don’t have it in you.

This may be obvious, intellectually, that, of course, we think shit about ourselves that isn’t true. Learned helplessness is not valid, of course. It’s a learned perception that is almost categorically false. And it is easy to think these thoughts. It is quite another, however, to believe that in your gut. Quitting smoking has helped me get that a little bit into my gut.

I can now look at things and go, hey, you know, maybe I think that this or that isn’t in the cards for me, that I don’t have what it takes… but you know what? I also believed that about quitting smoking. And I fucking quit smoking. So guess what? Maybe I just need to keep failing and taking time off and failing and taking time off until during one of those periods in which I take time off I actually learn something and start making successes instead of failing.

Some people take to things like fish take to water. Others have a great deal of trouble with getting things off the ground. In some areas, I am definitely one of the latter. But that is ok. Just because you fail and fail and fail does not mean you aren’t cut out for something. It just means that there is something important for you to learn.

In terms of smoking it was this:

Smoking is not a freedom. Freedom is doing what I want and not doing what I don’t want. If I don’t want to smoke, I should be able to not smoke as long as I don’t want to smoke.

Smoking is a lie. The good things that smoking supposedly did for me was bullshit. I was getting little to nothing out of smoking, and the pleasure of smoking was mainly due to the fact that I was relieving sensations which were discomforts and senses of need created *by* smoking.

Smoking makes you sick. Straight up. Not just with cancer or emphysema or some other disease years down the line, but now. It affects your health in a negative way pretty much fucking immediately. It fucks with your immune system and fucks with your brain and overall health.

I cannot smoke in moderation. I cannot control the habit. I must destroy the habit and simply never smoke.

I thought this last thing was impossible. NEVER smoke? Yes. Never smoke. NEVER. Just don’t fucking do it. So long as you don’t smoke, it isn’t a problem. And what are you losing when you don’t smoke? Not much. You’re basically losing a toxic lie.

These are the basic things I learned that helped me quit. I also got sick (a cold basically) and wouldn’t heal if I smoked. Every time I smoked a cigarette, the congestion would get worse and remain that way for a while. One cigarette could influence how I felt for 6 or more hours. So, I had immediate feedback here to help me think about smoking.

So, I am thinking, hmmm, what other areas in my life did I feel this way about? What else am I still doing or not doing because I feel there is no other choice for me? Could I be wrong about this stuff too? Is there stuff to learn in these areas as well?

Yes. I think so.

It is sad, but sometimes you’ve got to beat your head against a wall until you learn something. But you’ve got to do it mindfully, not mindlessly. You’ve got to be looking for answers, seeking and thinking, and you’ve got to give yourself a chance. Give yourself the benefit of the doubt. Vote for yourself. Be your own #1 fan and believer. It’s easier said than done, but it can be done. And even a little bit helps.