Friday, September 20, 2019

[Review] - Phytodabs: CBD Isolate Slab, 1 gram

Vendor:  PhytoFamily
Location:  Tucson, AZ
Items:  CBD concentrates, drops, pet treats.
Rating:  4.3 of 5 stars

So I know I've reviewed this company at least a couple times before, but not this product.  It's a pretty straightforward item:  99% CBD isolate slabs, which usually come in little thin "sheets" for lack of a better explanation.  They work great in my Yocan Evolve Plus or under the tongue & have no added terpenes or other flavors.  Just a slight bitterness.  The sheets are generally brittle & break easily with the smallest amount of pressure.

This time, my "slab" was more of a "rock" which made it harder to work with.  This is the first time I've seen it come in this format which is a little odd.  And it was hard as a rock too.  Had to use my sharp dabbing tool to chip off smaller pieces which aren't very thin.  Doesn't seem to be anything different about the product itself, though I'm gonna let it "breathe" with the lid off for 24 hours just to be sure they didn't rush these pre-orders out the door or something.  (I know nothing about how these concentrates are made, which solvents are used, etc. so forgive me if I'm being overly cautious).  I paid the sale price of $19.99 + $4.99 for this 1 gram of pure CBD, which is great in this market. 

Broken up a bit

As far as I can tell, the isolate still works the same as its old incarnation.  It has a slight hempy aftertaste but nothing weird or chemical.  I like putting a couple "pebbles" of it under my tongue at bedtime after hitting my Pineapple Express THC vape.  Still melts just as well in my Yocan vape despite the difference in consistency. 

Overall I give this order a 4.3 out of 5 stars for price & effectiveness.  I'd like to see the old "slabs" return in the future if they're gonna continue calling this product by that name; otherwise I have no complaints.  It's still easier to work with than the powdery isolate & you can't beat the price for a gram.  Other CBD vendors need to get on board with Phytodabs' competitive pricing if they want to stay in business.  There are far too many of the same or more diluted items selling for double or even triple the cost of this.  Adding a couple drops of (food-derived/non-cannabis) terpenes shouldn't push the price up to $50/gram either.  Not calling out any names this time, but these vendors know who they are.  If you want to charge that much you need to be testing every batch for pesticides, residual solvents & heavy metals. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

It's Official: I'm a Card-Carrying Stoner

Image result for medical marijuana card funny

If you follow me on Twitter, you've likely heard the news:  I got my medical marijuana (hate that word) card.  To me this is a huge deal & a long time coming.  It cost a lot--to me--and was kind of a pain, but if you lived in the uber-conservative part of the country I do, you'd understand just how surreal it is to see the most liberal mmj laws in the country get passed in your own backyard & dispensaries popping up everywhere.  There are SIX dispensaries in this one small town near me.

There was a time when my state was convinced we'd be dead last to EVER legalize any kind of cannabis; be it medical, recreational or even basic decriminalization.  This is a state that voted for Trump across the board in 2016--every single county was red.  A place where liquor stores close on Sundays to honor the Sabbath & the lottery wasn't legalized until recently due to deeply held religious beliefs about gambling being a sin.  We were also the last to legalize tattoo parlors, which happened not back in the 20th Century but in 2006.  So while getting access to legal weed may not be a big deal to a lot of folks these days, it is to me.

The card itself is much fancier than my driver's license & is good for 2 years, during which time I can stock up on FAR more cannabis products than I'll be able to use in that time.  (I'm a very lightweight smoker & actually prefer CBD to THC).  But as someone with multiple health conditions at a young age, it will be nice to have the option to reach for dispensary-quality ganja for years to come.  Especially with all this vape cartridge nonsense.  I can also legally grow up to 6 plants though this won't be happening with my current roommates unless I want to do the red Solo cup autoflower stealth grow again.

In all my years using cannabis, I've only smoked flower & vaped oil via a vape cartridge as well as a few failed forays into edibles.  I'm an absolute virgin when it comes to concentrates, topicals or any of that.  Prices here are still inflated:  15/gram of bud is the standard, with lower quality stuff selling for 10/g.  Vape carts go for no less than $60/gram which is okay since they last me so long.  (I decided to just eat the oil out of my last one since I got worried about vaping--worked like a charm).  My plan here is to thoroughly review every different form of weed product I try so inexperienced peeps like myself can get a good idea of how they work in terms of effects, duration, time to onset, side effects & other stuff.  So if that interests you, check this blog frequently for new reviews.  I'm by no means an expert or connoisseur--there are plenty of other (paid) weed writers out there to fill that market.  If you want to know which brands & forms are quality, look here.

The "scene" here is a work in progress.  I keep seeing the same few strains on all the dispo menus which tells me we haven't likely diversified our wholesale growing quite enough yet.  There's still a lot of "stoner science" being passed off in articles as the gospel truth, such as the idea that flushing your soil 2 weeks before harvest makes for "cleaner bud" and that white ash is somehow indicative of a purer product.  And I've read some horror story reviews from patients who dealt with sexism & racism lobbed at them by dispensary owners who then had the gall to clap back at them in the public comments.  So we've got some wrinkles to iron out.  I suspect a few of these green rush capitalists will be weeded out (pun intended) with time & competition as the market stabilizes, which is not a bad thing.  170 licensed medical dispensaries in our not-very-populated state is more than California has altogether (not counting the grey-market ones).  I ain't complaining, but there are definitely some uneducated & overzealous greedy types out here cashing in.

On the other hand, I've also heard glowing stories & experienced great kindness personally when going to apply for my medical card.  People who otherwise would be unemployable getting a second chance at a career in this business--nice, hardworking people who just happen to lack high school or college educations but have a passion for helping & working with the cannabis plant--which is a much safer avenue than the oilfields, farming or repairing gas pipelines (the only alternatives around here).  Maybe if more conservative-minded, uptight people puff on the good weed they'll start to relax a bit...put down their guns & maybe even open their minds to new ideas like evolution & climate change existing.

Meh.  Let's not get ahead of ourselves.  😙

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Cannabis Concentrates 101

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As a fair-weather pot smoker I had no idea just how many concentrates there are on the market today.  Back in my day we had weed & hash....that's it.  The weed was brown-tinged bricks and you only got hash if your friend went to Amsterdam & had the balls to mail or smuggle some back to you.  Today the list of concentrates & extracts is so long it could make a new medical marijuana patient's head spin.  Mine sure is.

Since getting my medical card I've been researching every form of concentrate in the dispensaries, and this is a very basic rundown of what I've found.  If you're a noob like me you may find it somewhat helpful.  If you're an expert, not so much.  Keep in mind this is the Concentrates & Extracts 101 version so don't expect any new or exciting epiphanies here:

Distillate:  This is the distilled liquid cannabis extract that's used in most vape cartridges & edibles.  It's usually pale to honey-colored & thick in viscosity.  Distillate generally contains mostly THC with a dash of CBD & plant-derived terpenes, which produces an effect different from the actual strain of the flower itself.  Some companies use full-spectrum & cannabis-derived terpenes but they're less common.  Distillate produces an effect that's an approximation of whole cannabis at best, which some users prefer as it's clearer-headed & has less of a drowsy comedown.

Shatter:  This one is exactly what it sounds like:  a glass-like concentrate that "shatters" when pressure is applied.  Sometimes.  It can also be more taffy-like in consistency depending on the THC vs. THCa content.  Either way, shatter is extremely high in THC & should be used with caution by new cannabis heads.  Storing it in the fridge or another cool, dry place is recommended to preserve its brittle texture & avoid a melted mess.

Rosin:  Rosin is a solvent-free extract that's produced when cannabis buds are compressed & heated.  It can be made with a commercial press or even a hair straightener.  It has a gooey consistency somewhat like distillate.  Properly made rosin rivals shatter in its flavor, aroma & terpene-profile.  Since it requires no solvents, rosin can be made safely at home using fully dried/cured cannabis flowers.

Budder/Badder:  These concentrates have a cake batter-like texture & can almost be stirred due to their softness.  They are produced by whipping high-quality cannabis extract under heat.  The difference between the two is a matter of subjective preference & spelling.  They're essentially one & the same.

Live Resin:  This is made by flash freezing the whole plant right after harvest to preserve terpenes, resulting in a more full-bodied experience.  Live resins can range in thickness from saps to jellies & butters or even shatter depending on how they're made.  It's called "live" resin because it smells just like the living cannabis plant.  Resin is slightly weaker than shatter or wax but has a more well-rounded effect due to its complex cannabinoid content.  It's as close to 'full-spectrum' as you can get with concentrates. 

Crumble:  Crumble is a type of wax with a honeycomb consistency that crumbles easily upon handling.  It's the driest extract on the market & is made by whipping the extract under extreme heat.  It generally comes pre-broken into small pieces & ready to vape, smoke or dab.

Crystalline:  This is the purest form of concentrate, consisting only of one cannabinoid such as THCa or CBD.  It contains no plant matter or terpenes & is sometimes referred to as "diamonds" or, in the CBD market, "isolate".  The THCa converts to THC at the time of decarboxylation (heating).

The main difference between all these concentrates is texture & terpene content...not potency or effects.  It's like comparing hard candy to soft candy--both are sweet & will satisfy your sugar craving but they each have a unique look & feel.  Most importantly, all of these options will get you effed up due to their high THC content so proceed with caution if you're used to working with plain flower or haven't smoked in a few years (or decades).

How To Consume

The above isn't a conclusive list of concentrates by any means.  I simply chose to focus on these because they can be vaped with a contraption like my Yocan Evolve Plus (or a cheap 510-threaded battery in the case of distillate).  This is my chosen method of consumption so yeah, I'm biased.  Dabbing is a whole other can of worms that I haven't gotten into so I'll leave that subject to the pros.  Not a huge fan of smoking either now that I know vaping comes with fewer side effects (for me anyway) & is much stealthier.  But everyone's different.  If one method of ingestion doesn't work for you, try another.  Play around with the dose but start low to avoid a freak-out.  Weed's never killed anyone but it has caused some absolutely terrifying panic attacks.

Some more concentrates & tips from Leafly

To vape the concentrates I listed above, simply scoop them up on your dabbing tool & place them on the heating element (coil or donut) of your vape.  Then press the button & inhale.  It's really that simple.  If you're using a vape cartridge full of distillate, you may not need to press a button at all.  The texture of some of them, such as badder & rosin, may be messier to handle than crystalline or shatter but it's definitely doable.  Start with a rice-sized piece of concentrate & work your way up to a pea-sized one if that's not enough.  Just be sure to keep your vape parts clean & replaced as needed to prevent clogging.  Some of these concentrates can really gum up your heating elements over time.  Everclear, distilled water or 90%+ isopropyl alcohol is recommended for cleaning vape parts, but they'll eventually need to be replaced in most cases.  Make sure to burn off the remnants of the alcohol or water before using the vape again so you get a clean hit.

As stated above, some of the concentrates can be smoked on a bowl or joint (crumble) or dabbed (shatter, crumble, rosin) as well as vaped.  Most don't work when ingested as-is, as they require heat to activate the active components.  The stealth-factor will vary depending on how terpene-rich the concentrate is & how hot you let the vape get.  Vaping distillate in a typical cartridge set-up is generally very stealthy while attempting to vape live resin at high temperatures in public might be a mistake due to the smell.  I'm not entirely sure as I haven't experimented with all of these.  Test it out in private at home before venturing out to a cannabis-unfriendly space to be safe. 

Vape cartridges full of distillate

The stealthiest options would be edibles, tinctures, Rick Simpson Oil (RSO) & capsules as these can all be ingested orally & leave no scent.  There are also topical & rectal options but I'll let you look into those yourself if you're interested.  They tend to produce fewer psychoactive effects than either vaped, smoked or eaten cannabis but may still provide therapeutic effects.  For all my endometriosis & PCOS sufferers, there are even weed vaginal suppositories that supposedly help with cramps!  I've seen mixed reviews on those, so it might be better to stick with other less messy routes.       

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Rick Simpson Oil ("RSO") - Usually comes in a syringe

I think that about covers it!  Anything I left out?  What's your favorite method of cannabis consumption & why?  I value stealth, lack of side effects like sedation & safety above all else.  It can be a balancing act finding a strain & product that is neither too paranoia/anxiety-inducing nor too drowsy.  That's my biggest challenge.  Any tips appreciated.  😎

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

A Guide to Sober Life

So you're ready to give up drugs...all of them, including the socially acceptable ones like booze.  Good for you.  That's a big decision.  I'm serious.  If you're one of the millions who has a true addiction--not just a pattern of binging on drugs or physical dependence but a deep psychological addiction & inability to moderate your use--quitting will be the best decision you ever made.  And also one of the hardest.  Actually, quitting isn't's staying sober that's tricky.  But being an addict is hard too.  As they say, you gotta pick your "hard."

As with any gargantuan task, getting clean must be broken down into short- and long-term steps & goals.  In the first "phase," you will be experiencing physical withdrawal & getting triggered to use everywhere you turn.  Nothing will feel fulfilling & you'll fear life will always feel this way.  (It won't).  In Phase 2, you'll feel physically better & the obsessing will have faded a bit.  But you'll realize unpleasant emotions like boredom & anxiety are an unavoidable part of life & will have to develop healthy coping skills to deal with them.  Most people need help with this part.  It's this 2nd phase that really makes or breaks a person's long-term chances of staying healthy.  Read on to find out how.

Phase One:  Acute (Short-Term) Success

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Tips for acute/early sobriety

Stay Busy.  During the acute phase of quitting & withdrawal, you'll be focused on physical comfort & distracting your mind from the desire to use.  This is actually the easy part.  Once the physical withdrawals have passed & you feel up to it, immediately get back to work or volunteering, engaging in healthy hobbies or other things to keep busy.  "Idle hands are the devil's workshop" was a favorite saying of my grandma's, and it's especially true for addicts.

Can't think of anything to make the time pass?  Regardless of where you live, you can always:  exercise vigorously, read or watch something funny, masturbate, write in a journal, do artwork, meditate, prepare & eat a healthy meal or sit somewhere & watch people or cars go by.  These things won't feel very exciting at all right now; that's not the point.  Do them anyway.  Go through the motions & keep your attention occupied during these early weeks of sobriety so you can make it to Phase 2.  Keep your mind & body active unless you're asleep.  This will improve your chances of avoiding slip-ups early on.

Clean House.  Literally & figuratively.  Use your nervous energy to do some physical cleaning of your living space.  Ideally, you'd be able to move to an entire new home or city to start over, but if that's not feasible simply rearranging your furniture & redecorating can make things feel new.  Treat quitting drugs like a breakup:  throw out all the music you listened to while high.  Delete your accounts on drug forums; erase your dealer's number & get a whole new phone if your old one is full of druggie friends.  Do everything you can to identify & purge old triggers from your environment to reduce temptation.

Cleaning house also involves cutting contact with the people who supported you in your addiction & self-destruction...even if they were family or friends.  Anyone who's toxic or makes you feel shitty is a risk to your safety right now, so avoid them at all costs.  Tell everyone you're making some changes & need some time to yourself.  If they care about you at all they'll respect this request & support you however they can. 

Phase Two:  Chronic (Long-Term) Success

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Seriously, go to therapy.

By now a few months will have passed & you'll be feeling more clear-headed & confident in your sobriety.  But for many addicts, there is a lingering feeling that something is missing... they don't feel quite "right" mentally or emotionally.  This can last months or even years in rare cases.  But it DOES get better the longer you're sober.  However, time doesn't heal all wounds.  Time + work is required to truly achieve sobriety rather than just being a "dry druggie" or drunk.

Find a professional (therapist, counselor, etc).  For the 2nd & most vital step, you'll ideally need a therapist, counselor, caseworker or sobriety coach to truly benefit.  If you can't afford that at the moment, that's okay.  But make it a priority as soon as you're able.  This is the long-term aspect that will ultimately determine whether you're able to not only stay clean but be successful in other ways, so you want to do it right.  To do that you'll need to gain healthy coping skills while changing your thought patterns & learning to set healthy boundaries with people.  Nobody can magically develop these skills all alone.  (Let me just take a minute to plug my therapist:  she's trained in CBT & is a miracle worker.  And she works at a sliding-scale state funded clinic where I pay $0 to attend & get my meds.  I've tried every psych med on the market practically & can honestly say that working with a good therapist is more effective than any single one of them.  With her help I've tackled situations I never thought possible before).  If you don't mesh with your first therapist, try another.  And another.

You can find a million & one reasons to avoid therapy but once you start you'll wonder why you waited so long.  With the advent of telemedicine & other forms of technology, it's never been more convenient to talk to a professional.  GO. 

Help Yourself.  If you can't get to a clinic right away you can always check out a self-help book on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or watch a TED Talk on addiction in the meantime (for instance).  However, the most vital thing is being able to vent your feelings, fears & darkest thoughts somewhere confidential like a journal.  Many harsh emotions & memories will come up during the detox/quitting process...let the journal serve as your sounding board.  These feelings must have an outlet.  Practice taking deep, calming breaths when you're feeling tense & take a physical time-out if necessary.  If you're anything like me you're scoffing at these "simple" fixes but they can really help slow down your parasympathetic nervous system when you're feeling frustrated or scared.  It's not a complete solution but it's a small step that helps. 

Whatever your path to sobriety, whether it's through a substitution program like methadone/Suboxone, a 12-step program, going it alone or a fancy retreat like Lindsay Lohan would attend, all addicts face the same stumbling blocks.  Loneliness, boredom, anger, depression, social anxiety & negative self-talk/traumatic memories are common triggers to relapse.  Which is often a part of recovery, by the way.  Just as someone who's dieting will sometimes slip up & take in too much, so will an addict on their path to sobriety.  Don't use it as an excuse to give up.  You've come so far & deserve to see this through.  You already know what the other path leads to.

Imagining a New Life

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Any questions?

So what does life even look like without drugs as a constant companion?  There was a time in your life before you ever tried a substance, even if it was way back in childhood.  Try to recall it.  If that time was unpleasant it doesn't have to be that way now.  You can carve out a whole new path with healthy lifestyle choices & good habits.  The thing about childhood is we have no control over much of anything; as adults, we have the ability to kick toxic people out of our lives, to spend our free time as we wish, befriend anyone we want & so forth.  Freedom of choice is an awesome gift AND a huge responsibility.  It can be used or abused. 

I divide life up into 4 major categories:  1.) Emotional Health 2.) Hobbies, 3.) Physical Health/Work & 4.) Social Life.  Giving each of these attention as needed guarantees a healthy balance.  Be careful who you allow into your social circle, where you go & what you do.  Learn to manage your finances wisely.  Take care of your mental & physical health by getting regular checkups & getting enough healthy food, sleep & exercise.  Figure out what you're passionate about & go after it with your whole being.  A healthy life is all about balancing work & relaxation/recreation...solitude & socializing.  Self-care & helping others.  Remember that you're working for the delayed reward of continued health & happiness rather than the instant rush of a drug high.  That part can be challenging at first.  If you find yourself really craving that adrenaline rush in your life, you might enjoy a hobby like hang gliding, rafting, martial arts or surfing.

The possibilities for a happy, successful sober life really are endless.  If you can imagine it, you can create it.  Success is defined by YOU, by the way.  If acquiring a lot of wealth & all its trappings makes you feel fulfilled, go for it.  If you'd be happier living a minimalist life of traveling & service to others, that's awesome too.  There are no wrong answers.   The important thing is to make sure not to let anyone else define success for you.  If you don't truly want the thing you're working for, you're not as likely to succeed or feel fulfilled when you do.  Neither your parents, friends nor partner can make this decision for you.     

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[Review] - Panactol-Codein Plus

Vendor:  timonbui
Location:  Vietnam
Items:  Medications, supplements, backpacks.
Rating:  4.9 of 5 stars


You know me.  Always scouring eBay late at night searching for rare hidden gems.  And boy oh boy did I find some this night.  The best codeine product I've come across yet, and in the largest quantity.  Almost too good to be true.  But alas, it is true.

Panactol-Codein Plus is a tablet that contains 500mg acetaminophen & 30mg codeine & comes in a box of 100 tabs.  One.  Hundred.  Tabs.  That's equivalent to the strength of Tylenol #3 in the U.S.  But apparently it's available over-the-counter in Vietnam.  I started by ordering one box to see if it arrives unmolested.  The vendor was very friendly & got back to me immediately, addressing my concerns about discreet packaging.  I paid $44.15 including shipping for 1 box which is not bad considering what I'm getting.  They shipped it out the very next morning.  I'm certain this item will be scrubbed from eBay as soon as they notice it, but I figured I'd write up a review of the vendor anyway in case they have other goodies anyone wants to peruse.

I'm a daily kratom user but suffer from chronic stomach inflammation & ulcers so it's good to take a break from the bitter, granulated kratom tea sometimes.  Plus I can use these tabs if I ever have surgery & can't take kratom, as codeine has a much shorter half-life & thus won't interfere with anesthesia.  And I kinda just like codeine sometimes.  The tracking only works within Vietnam since USPS international tracking is bullshit & isn't compatible with many countries.  This means I can't see which port/customs it's coming through, but here's hoping it's not New York as that's where my last couple of orders have gone missing.  I received the order September 3rd, which was no more than 3 weeks after after ordering.  Packaging was plain--just a small box-shaped First Class package.  The pills come in 10 blister packs of 10 each which makes for some rattling in the box in transit but nothing too bad.

Front of blister

One pill makes me feel a twinge of something; two gets me feeling loose & warm all over.  Codeine is a "body opiate" for me--it gives me all the warmth & muscle relaxation of a typical opioid but without much of a mood/mental boost.  Tianeptine is the exact opposite--a "head opioid" that has no physical effects but brightens mood & gives a temporary energy boost.  Biggest downsides of codeine are the fatigue when it's wearing off & the rebound migraines I get the next day, but who's complaining?  These tabs are definitely the real deal (as far as I can tell).

Back of blister

There does appear to be a major problem with counterfeit meds in Vietnam so I can't be too sure I'm getting exactly what the label states.  But from my understanding foreign counterfeits are more likely to contain no active ingredients (bunk) or a lower dose of them than to be completely filled with fentanyl or other deadly shit like here in the states.  Some counterfeiters also sell expired meds & change the date, which again isn't an issue with something like codeine as it doesn't "go bad" the way, say, erythromycin does.  I can see how these things would pose a big problem with cancer or blood pressure drugs that require a specific dose though.  I could imagine counterfeiters going to the trouble of faking something like Dilaudid or oxycodone, but codeine hardly seems worth the trouble.  But I could be wrong.  I started with a very microscopic dose to be sure.

Vietnamese package insert

That said, it's a shame our country doesn't offer access to effective meds like this without jumping through hoops & paying a fortune.  Doctors, insurance co-pays, the cost of medication... all that just for some mild pain relievers that nobody really finds that recreational.  Having seen & bought codeine from so many other countries, it's become clear to me just how strict our own drug laws are here in the U.S. by comparison.  I doubt any other country is quite this ridiculously controlling.  We're right up there with Singapore in terms of attitudes toward substances.  Even the U.K. offers codeine & dihydrocodeine products over-the-counter and they aren't suffering some mass opioid problem as a result.

Maybe Americans really are more irresponsible with substances?  After seeing the lengths people go to abusing Imodium (loperamide) to obtain a high, it's pretty embarrassing.  Ditto for Benadryl & other horrid OTC meds.  Even so, it should be an individual's right to 'learn the hard way' if they so choose.  The rest of us shouldn't be punished for their idiotic choices.  Perhaps if safer, more enjoyable substances were available without a prescription, fewer kids would be huffing computer duster or snorting lines of powdered caffeine in search of a head change?

But I digress.  I give this order a 4.9 of 5 stars for price, packaging & shipping time.  This is a wonderful product in a generous amount & as a chronic pain sufferer I hope to see it around for a while.  Forever would be nice.  If you purchase from this vendor, please do so responsibly & don't mess it up for the rest of us.  Be polite/patient & request discreet packaging.  Most importantly, don't use "red flagged" words like 'codeine', 'opiates' or similar ones on eBay's messaging system.  Ditto for Paypal.  They will absolutely shut down the vendor AND the buyer's accounts if they suspect banned activity.

Update:  It appears that my stomach lining inflammation (gastritis) has significantly decreased since switching from kratom to codeine.  Don't know what to make of that since kratom is generally healthier & less likely to cause overdose (plus cheaper) but this tentatively appears to be the case.  Hmmm.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Surviving vs. Living: The Role of Work in the Robotic Age

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Work.  It's the backbone of a smoothly-running economy & society...a means by which a person earns their living & contributes to the world.  In America, it's not uncommon to see people working 10-14 hour days, 6-7 days a week or having 2+ jobs to make ends meet.  We're told it's a point of pride to be a hard-working person.  That a good work ethic is a virtue & laziness is one of the least desirable qualities.  Our very worth is often defined by our productivity (which doesn't feel too great for the disabled, I'd imagine). But at what point does "work" become exploitation and these ideas become propaganda?

People guzzle coffee in the morning & slam caffeine-packed energy drinks in the afternoon to fuel their output.  Some resort to stronger stimulants.  Despite their devotion to hard work, many are left unable to pay for their most basic necessities--food, rent, bills--and must go on public assistance to make ends meet.  They are then looked down on by society for accepting help even though they're running themselves ragged going to work, school & taking care of their families.  The stress of such a life undoubtedly shaves years off one's life in addition to making years lived less enjoyable.

Wal-Mart is one of the largest contributors to welfare use in the U.S. economy.  Maybe their "Everyday Low Prices" aren't really so low after all?  If we're subsidizing the cost of their employees' cost of living via welfare, taxpayers end up picking up the tab one way or another.  I personally know more than 5 elderly women over 65 who work low-paying customer service jobs where they stand on their feet all day.  One of them has a Master's degree.  At one time she was both teaching my English class in high school & working the night shift at Wal-Mart to make ends meet.  As you can imagine, she wasn't too pleasant during her day job.  We never got along too well.  Now she stands on her feet all day making minimum wage as a cashier at Dollar General.  She's 68.  Her 87-year-old mom still works too.

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Are you living or just surviving?

But it goes way beyond unskilled labor.  Nurses & doctors are also disgustingly overworked & understaffed, leading to dangerous conditions in hospitals.  Medical errors are the 3rd leading cause of death in the U.S. behind heart disease & cancer.  All in the name of saving a buck by paying fewer people to do more work.  This has become the business model for too many companies in too many industries in the past few decades.  President George W. Bush once praised a divorced mom of three for working 3 jobs, calling it "uniquely American" and "fantastic."  Yeah.  Easy to say when it's not YOU being subjected to that life of utter struggle & stress.  This is capitalist brainwashing at its most blatant; treating human beings like machines to be lauded only for their output & cast aside when they're no longer able to produce.  

That's always been the model within the military.  Ask any veteran about the quality of treatment they receive from the V.A. & you'll get a similar answer.  Even those who voluntarily risk their lives at the peak of their youth to fight unnecessary wars are treated like dirt by the government when they return home, having to rely on private charities like the Wounded Warrior Project for basic care.  If you think the rest of us have a chance at being treated with dignity, you're living in a fantasy.

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(Racist) military propaganda discouraging laziness

There's nothing inherently wrong with hard work.  It's supposed to be a transaction in which a person's time, effort & skill are traded for money or goods.  Once spent, time & effort can never be regained which makes them very precious.  Life is incredibly short & many of your best years are spent working unless you're incredibly lucky or born into wealth.  If a person is going to trade these valuable assets for money, it must be sufficient amounts to meet their basic needs.  But it's often not, and it hasn't been for a long time now.  The balance has tipped so far in favor of businesses & corporations that the American worker has nearly no power anymore.  Workers' unions are virtually a thing of the past.  Strikes & protests are a rarity.  Organized boycotts?  Pffft.  Who has the time or attention span?  

The cost of living has risen steadily while wages have stagnated.  Jobs have been outsourced while many companies at home secretly recruit undocumented immigrant workers whom they can exploit & endanger more readily than American citizens.  This is a widespread problem in the dairy, fruit-picking, meat processing & hotel janitorial service industries.  But an even larger threat is that will make outsourcing & illegal immigration seem like small potatoes.  

Artificial intelligence.  



The dawn of the robotic age is projected to be akin to the Industrial Revolution in terms of how drastically it changes working conditions all over the world.  How governments deal with it will either make or break economic & social stability in coming years.  

If we don't institute some kind of basic income system for all people, the job loss due to automation will result in mass homelessness, hunger & civil unrest.  We're already seeing uprisings in the form of Occupy Wallstreet, the Poor Peoples' Campaign, teachers' strikes in Oklahoma & West Virginia, the Kentucky miners' blockade, the Amazon workers' union protests and many more.  People are finally becoming disillusioned with the 2-party political system & demanding better living conditions here at home, though it's going to be an uphill battle with plenty of distractions to keep us bickering & unfocused.  Things will only come to a head when enough people are disenfranchised & have lost everything, no longer able to sit comfortably in their reclining chair & peruse Facebook while the Nightly News drones on in the background.

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The future is now.

A universal basic income (UBI) system would replace all current inefficient welfare programs in the U.S.  It would supply all Americans with a baseline monthly income that would cover their most basic needs like housing, food & bills.  It would not cover luxuries or make everyone rich.  People would still have to work & earn their own additional money to achieve anything beyond the bare basics.  UBI would do away with homelessness, reduce crime & address child hunger while freeing up everyone's time to pursue things other than working to survive.  Studying, hobbies, travel, spending more time with your kids or aging parents, volunteering, self-care or any other non-work activity imaginable would be within reach under a UBI system.  Things you currently put off "until tomorrow" but never get around to because of your hectic work schedule.  Things that make up a balanced, meaningful life.  No more dreaded "Monday" blues.  Your passion could be your work & vice versa.

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Basic Income: the simple solution
Would some people abuse it & laze around doing drugs or sleeping all day?  Of course.  But people do that NOW.  At least with UBI they wouldn't have to commit fraud, steal or panhandle to meet their needs.  We're moving past the point where humans need to toil to survive.  If we're to evolve to the next level of consciousness as a species, we need to free up our time & minds to do things other than commuting to/from work, serving some abusive boss & wearing our bodies down with manual labor.  Lord knows we have enough complex problems to solve--climate change, disease, terrorism, government corruption.  We'll need all the creative minds we can get to come up with solutions.  It's impossible to be creative when you're working 80 hours a week with no vacation or sick leave & living paycheck to paycheck.  

And whether we implement UBI or not, the jobs are going away forever.  Many have already gone, such as those in the American automobile industry.  The only question is how we'll support our citizens & economy when there's no manual labor jobs left.  One expert predicts 40% of jobs will be replaced by robots in 15 years.  Even if those numbers aren't exactly right, change is coming & it's going to affect those at the bottom of the economic totem pole first & hardest.  Our only choice is how we deal with it.  

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Teen Vaping Panic!

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It's Summer.  Ratings are dragging & the media needs something to boost its viewership, so here comes another perfectly-timed "crisis" threatening America's youth.  This time it's vaping that's causing teens to keel over.  While this is a very serious & real phenomenon, the stories reporting it contain nothing approaching responsible journalism.  Headlines scream "Vaping Kills 1; Maims Hundreds" while the finer print says that vaping hasn't even been 100% identified as the actual cause of these kids' lung problems (though it's pretty likely in my opinion).  

More troubling, nobody has bothered to identify what actual ingredient or ingredients are causing these reactions.  Vaping is not a new phenomenon--people, including teens--have been doing it for at least a decade now with no acute problems of this scale or severity.  There have always been questions about the possible long-term effects of inhaling certain carrier ingredients like vegetable glycerine or medium-chain triglycerides, but whatever's sickening these people is something far worse.  This is an acute, life-threatening reaction...not a chronic/long-term issue.  Yet we can't seem to get an answer as to what's causing it.  Just "vaping".  Vaping what, exactly?  Some of the victims were vaping black-market THC products that are counterfeit & made to look like those sold in dispensaries.  Some were vaping nicotine products.  Others CBD-only preparations.  

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Blowing smoke...

Those 3 industries--black market THC, nicotine products like Juul pods & CBD supplements--are not even in the same legal category or subject to the same regulations, so how the hell can you link these illnesses to such a wide variety of different products?  Something's not adding up.  It's almost as if they want to scare ALL vape users away from the practice.  It conjures memories of the Great Kratom Salmonella Scare of 2018, except this time people are actually very sick & dying.  The question is, why?  And who is responsible?  Is this a deliberate attempt to poison the vaping industry by adding known toxins to a variety of products like CBD & nicotine, perhaps by some 3-letter agency?  Probably not, because that's crazy talk.  But something stinks.  

The more likely scenario is that the media is jumping the gun by linking "vaping"--an overly broad term describing a number of different activities--to an outbreak of unknown origin before having all the facts.  The outbreak itself is all too real but the explanation behind it is lacking to say the least.  Until someone can tell us what adulterant or ingredient is at fault, how are we to alter our behavior & protect ourselves?  That's just it:  they want us to give up vaping in all forms by deliberately leaving out the important details.  Ain't happenin' guys.  

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Fake, fake, fake.

To help protect yourself against this very real & scary health problem, here are a few tips:

-  Never, ever buy black market THC vape products.  Counterfeiters make them look just like the real thing but they can contain literally anything from pesticides to dangerous carrier oils to lead heating elements in the vape itself, none of which will be obvious to the naked eye.  

-  When buying CBD vape products, only buy from vendors who publish 3rd party lab reports that test for contaminants other than THC (the industry minimum).  That includes pesticides, fungi/bacteria/other pathogens, heavy metals & residual solvents.  All of these have been found in various hemp-derived CBD brands.  

-  If you're a teen or young adult & don't vape nicotine products already, don't start.  There are countless reasons why you shouldn't pick up the habit.  Here are a few.

-  If your vape cartridge contains colored oil--blue, purple, green, black--it is fake.  Real oil will have an incredibly thick viscosity & will be colored a light almond to dark amber tone.  Food coloring will not mix with actual vape oil so this is a huge red flag that it's fake.  Also: the vape oil shouldn't be thin like water.  The bubble should rise almost imperceptibly slowly when the pen is turned upside down.  

-  If you're an e-cig user who vapes nicotine, be on the lookout for counterfeit cartridges as well.  China produces knockoffs that look just like the real thing & can be dangerous.  The FDA ruled that companies like Juul can only sell their sweet-flavored products on websites, so stores that are still selling them are more likely to have counterfeits.  To reduce your risk of getting one of these fakes, avoid buying flavored (Mango, Fruit & Creme, etc) Juul pods in brick-and-mortar stores.  If your pod tastes bad, throw it out immediately.  

-  Learn to identify real CCell batteries & make sure your THC vape pen uses them if it's a certain brand (list in the next link).  Popular brands like Cereal Carts & Dank Vapes use this type of battery & it's often (poorly) counterfeited in fake pens like those seen here.  

...none of these tips are foolproof but they can be helpful.  

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