Archive for the ‘And Now for Something Completely Different’ Category

LSD, Reconsidered for Therapy

Thursday, March 6th, 2014

He heard about the drug trial from a friend in Switzerland and decided it was worth volunteering, even if it meant long, painful train journeys from his native Austria and the real possibility of a mental meltdown. He didn’t have much time, after all, and traditional medicine had done nothing to relieve his degenerative spine condition.

“I’d never taken the drug before, so I was feeling — well, I think the proper word for it, in English, is dread,” said Peter, 50, an Austrian social worker, in a telephone interview; he asked that his last name be omitted to protect his identity. “There was this fear that it could all go wrong, that it could turn into a bad trip.”

On Tuesday, The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease is posting online results from the first controlled trial of LSD in more than 40 years. The study, conducted in the office of a Swiss psychiatrist near Bern, tested the effects of the drug as a complement to talk therapy for 12 people nearing the end of life, including Peter.

Most of the subjects had terminal cancer, and several died within a year after the trial — but not before having a mental adventure that appeared to have eased the existential gloom of their last days.

“Their anxiety went down and stayed down,” said Dr. Peter Gasser, who conducted the therapy and followed up with his patients a year after the trial concluded.

The new publication marks the latest in a series of baby steps by a loose coalition of researchers and fund-raisers who are working to bring hallucinogens back into the fold of mainstream psychiatry. Before research was effectively banned in 1966 in the United States, doctors tested LSD’s effect for a variety of conditions, including end-of-life anxiety.

– More…

Why Scandinavian women make the rest of the world jealous

Monday, November 18th, 2013

Icelanders are among the happiest and healthiestpeople on Earth. They publish more books per capita than any other country, and they havemore artists. They boast the most prevalent belief in evolution — and elves, too. Iceland is the world’s most peaceful nation (the cops don’t even carry guns), and the best place for kids. Oh, and they had a lesbian head of state, the world’s first. Granted, the national dish is putrefied shark meat, but you can’t have everything.

Iceland is also the best place to have a uterus, according to the folks at the World Economic Forum. The Global Gender Gap Report ranks countries based on where women have the most equal access to education and healthcare, and where they can participate most fully in the country’s political and economic life.

According to the 2013 report, Icelandic women pretty much have it all. Their sisters in Finland, Norway, and Sweden have it pretty good, too: those countries came in second, third and fourth, respectively. Denmark is not far behind at number seven.

The U.S. comes in at a dismal 23rd, which is a notch down from last year. At least we’re not Yemen, which is dead last out of 136 countries.

So how did a string of countries settled by Vikings become leaders in gender enlightenment? Bloodthirsty raiding parties don’t exactly sound like models of egalitarianism, and the early days weren’t pretty. Medieval Icelandic law prohibited women from bearing arms or even having short hair. Viking women could not be chiefs or judges, and they had to remain silent in assemblies. On the flip side, they could request a divorce and inherit property. But that’s not quite a blueprint for the world’s premier egalitarian society.

The change came with literacy, for one thing. Today almost everybody in Scandinavia can read, a legacy of the Reformation and early Christian missionaries, who were interested in teaching all citizens to read the Bible. Following a long period of turmoil, Nordic states also turned to literacy as a stabilizing force in the late 18th century. By 1842, Sweden had made education compulsory for both boys and girls.

Researchers have found that the more literate the society in general, the more egalitarian it is likely to be, and vice versa. But the literacy rate is very high in the U.S., too, so there must be something else going on in Scandinavia. Turns out that a whole smorgasbord of ingredients makes gender equality a high priority in Nordic countries.

– More:

 

The NSA today

Sunday, November 3rd, 2013

Oh yeah...

No quick fix for China’s mistress culture

Sunday, November 3rd, 2013

– I wouldn’t normally post a story like this but I found it fascinating.  Each of our cultures has a different mix of what it considers appropriate.

– dennis

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There is something I must tell you about China: It is rather morally creative in the usage of its women.

There isn’t a hotel, massage parlor, ktv, or conference hall in town that isn’t frequented by “little sisters” (xiaojie), escort personnel (baopo), hostesses (peinv), or other types of prostitutes (jinv). There’s a name for any relationship a female plaything may fall into:

Here are the “second wives” (er laopo), women [who may have family or kids but] who indulge in extramarital affairs with men, married or not. Then we have “the thirds” (disanzhe) who are casual love affairs only.

The queen of all female roles, however – in direct competition with the faithful “wife” (laopo)- is the “mistress” (qingren). The mistress, a femme fatal, not only embodies adventure and carnal pleasures, but is also the surest status symbol a man can wish for: She shows you have money!

Technically, only married men can have mistresses; otherwise, if the gentleman is single, we would refer to his female company – however many of them- as simple “girlfriends” (nvpengyou). The Chinese tradition of maintaining mistresses is based on what good Christians would refer to as adultery – a sin; yet in China it is mere custom – a habit.

Consequently, when Westerners first come to China, they are utterly perplexed by the strict division here between marriage, romance, and sex – for which, in Chinese thinking, of course (at least) three different types of women are required.

Xu Qiya, a Jiangsu party official, had clearly set a local record with 140 mistresses; we know because he kept a sex diary; but he isn’t an inventor: In fact, I have yet to meet a dulcet Chinese girl who has not been offered a gift from a married man at some time. At least, that’s what they told me.

Accepting any gift from a married man, whether it being a handbag, jewelry, a car, a trip to the beaches of Hainan, is the unspoken agreement of becoming the mistress of that benefactor. It is the lure and excitement of an extraordinary life-style – luxurious, free, illicit, and irresponsible – that drives ever more 20-somethings not to marry, or at least to postpone it until their bodies become less marketable.

Those entrepreneurial women, of course, fill the pool of potential future mistresses in China to the brim. If a woman is not married by the age of 26, she “expired” and is usually stigmatized as “leftover woman” (shengnv).

Now let us talk about the situation of the Chinese married man. Post-marital infidelity is encouraged in China just as pre-marital sex is encouraged in Europe. In comparison to the West, only very few wives in China will file for divorce upon discovery of her husband’s infidelity. It is rather sad.

In China, sex and power are a pair. State-run Xinhua News recently found that 95% of all corrupt officials in China also kept mistresses. And Tom Doctoroff, an economist, estimates that second wives probably account for one-third of China’s entire consumption of luxury goods.

Let us talk about China’s capital, Beijing. From top to bottom, it isn’t a place for connubial happiness: It’s a very patriarchal society (there is mistress culture, but no such things as mister culture), and some of the most powerful men, including the Communist Party of China, create and procreate here, trailed by legions of businessmen, scholars, diplomats, and entrepreneurs, who mostly see no problem in renting a maid for warming their pillows.

In fact, the magazine Business Insider quoted a vice-ministerial-level official who insisted that “there is no official at his level who doesn’t have at least a few lovers” It is a must-have.

The victim is the young woman of China. As her feelings for any particular man dwindles (they are all cheaters, no?), she too becomes emotionally detached, and regards being a mistress as a form of business, or transactions of favors – a form of consumerism.

There are several grades of “maintaining” (baoyang) a mistress: The cheapest, of course, is to bed a university student. She is young, flexible, poor, and full of romantic ideas in her head. She will eventually marry a fellow classmate, but until then she may want to sneak out and bag a sugar daddy in Wudaokou, Zhongguancun, or Shaoyang district.

Next is the working woman. She is independent, has experience, and owns or rents her own place. (She might be even married, but, with her husband banging the next hostess at the local karaoke bar, she probably thinks what the heck.)

Perhaps the highest cost of maintenance goes to the trophy mistress (huaping, a “flower pot”). Her goal and profession is to conquer the most powerful man she can find at a time. It’s a life-style – it’s her religion. Enormous financial resources, and a good amount of drama, are necessary to snag such high-profile gold digger.

It has been observed that many Chinese women opt out of the Chinese tradition of cheating husbands and try to find a foreigner, preferably from a traditional monogamous society like Western Europe. Those “foreigners” (laowai) may also cheat on their spouse, of course, but for individual reasons, not, as is the case in China, as a social prescription or norm.

And so the mistress culture of China lives on, from vulgar to lustrous and glittering, and if the endless supply of young women for successful men does not ebb – and if women don’t divorce – the husband and his lovers will happily drive the market for luxury goods, hotel rooms, and publications about mistresses, and, almost as an afterthought, minister to their ethical ruin.

 

– To the original story:  

 

The world has a new oxymoron…

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

“Full-scale minutia”

Remember, you heard it first here.  Tell you friends.  Send money.   Praise the author.

…and so on.

 

– dennis

Credit Card Fraud

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

Credit Card Fraud

That’s what’s on my mind today.

As in it has happened to me.

Actually, this is the second time this year (once in the U.S. and once here in France) and both had similar aspects which I should learn from. And you too, as well, after I share them with you.

credit-card-fraud

I found a 98 Euro charge I didn’t recognize on my HSBC card today. I called HSBC and they told me that there were several others that were declined and there were yet others there that been charged that hadn’t yet had time to make it to my account transactions listing on-line. Yow!

The card was cancelled ASAP and I’ll have to go through some hassles to get refunded; but I will in the end. After I go to the police station here in Paris and file a report, then I’m to send that into HSBC.

The bank folks tell me that this sort of thing can happen when you pay with you card and you let them carry the card off away from your sight to ring up the bill and bring you a receipt.

They are not charging you extra in the back room. They are writing down your C/C number *and* the three digit code on the back. Because, often, they can make purchases over the Internet with just these bits of information.

So, the moral of the story is never let them carry your card away. Have them bring the swipe machine to you or follow them to where it is. Watch that no one copies the three digit code on the back.

I’m a wiser man now.

-dennis

A Jewel at the Heart of Quantum Physics

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

Amplutihedron

– Highly interesting article making the rounds.   Could open up an entirely new Physics.   Space and time may no longer be prime-time players.

– dennis

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Beyond making calculations easier or possibly leading the way to quantum gravity, the discovery of the amplituhedron could cause an even more profound shift, Arkani-Hamed said. That is, giving up space and time as fundamental constituents of nature and figuring out how the Big Bang and cosmological evolution of the universe arose out of pure geometry.

“In a sense, we would see that change arises from the structure of the object,” he said. “But it’s not from the object changing. The object is basically timeless.”

– To the article:

 

Some very fun maps…

Saturday, August 10th, 2013

Maps you just have to see:

– dennis

Traveling in the USA -new mobile number here is 1-509-491-8769

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

I passed out an earlier one privately by email but it turned out to be BOGUS (it was 509-460-1557 and it is bad so toss it!).

This new number is good until July 1st when Colette and I depart for France.

dennis

Time on your hands?

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

 

Woo-Woo

– Time is an interesting something.   Or, maybe not.  

– A recent issue of Scientific American, that focused the entire issue on the subject of Time, revealed that about 50% of the scientists who study time believe that time exists while the other 50% think it is an artificial construct that comforts our minds but that actually doesn’t exist.

– So here, for those of you who like to leaven your doom and gloom with a bit of science, are three articles that delve into the endlessly fascinating subject of something we’re not even sure if it exists.   Nice, eh?

– Enjoy

– dennis

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Time Crystals could upend Physicists’ Theory of Time

The Big Crunch; Physicists Make Time End

and

What is time? One Physicist Hunts for the Ultimate Theory

– research thanks to Kierin M.