Thursday, January 23, 2020

[Review] - Natural Vitality Calm: Anti-Stress Gummies

Vendor:  Swanson  greatstarter2013
Location:  Indiana, USA.
Items:  Vitamin & mineral supplements.
Rating:  4.8 of 5 stars
Website:  eBay.com




Lately my heart has been pounding at rest & I nearly fainted after getting too hot in the bath, which quite frankly scared the living shit out of me.  After some thinking, I remembered my chronically low potassium levels that always show up on routine blood tests.  All of this plus muscle cramping--another miserable symptom I'd developed recently--are signs of potassium deficiency which can be dangerous or even deadly if severe.

Magnesium & potassium work together to control muscle contraction including that of the heart and are often deficient together, particularly in people with poor diets (me) who take diuretics (also me) or those with eating disorders who abuse laxatives (not me).  I picked up some potassium chloride salt substitute to address the potassium issue along with some magnesium to see if it helped.  The salt substitute is yummy, btw.

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Magnesium citrate viral post :)

Magnesium citrate is best known as a potent laxative (see above) sold as a liquid in the freezer section of stores like CVS or Walgreen's, but it also comes in a weaker powder form that WON'T make you crap yourself in modest doses.  That's what's in Natural Vitality Calm Anti-Stress supplements.  The citrate is better absorbed than the oxide or chelate forms in many tablets which is why I opted to try it.  I was first turned on to the powder packets by a kratom vendor who sent me a sample of them many moons ago.  It had a mild calming effect that helped me wind down before bed.  According to Wikipedia, upwards of 50% of people are magnesium deficient today which is a little alarming.  Again, since I have the diet of an autistic 5-year-old, I most certainly have a magnesium shortage.  Unless you eat a lot of whole wheat, spinach, quinoa, almonds, dark chocolate & black beans (the top 5 magnesium-rich foods), you probably have a deficiency too.


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Natural Vitality Calm Anti-Stress Drink packets

Unfortunately, after waiting for the Swanson vendor's Calm Drink packets to show up for a week I was told it was out of stock & refunded, so I opted to pick up a similar product from a different vendor instead.  This review will be about the same brand of gummies with the same active ingredient (mag citrate) from vendor greatstarter2013.

Each serving of Natural Vitality Calm Gummies contains 83 mg elemental magnesium citrate; adults can take 4 gummies (servings) per day for a total of 332 mg.  There are 240 gummies in each bottle totaling 60 adult servings.  I paid $14.59 for the bottle which is a pretty reasonable price for 2 months' worth of magnesium.  I have GERD which means all tart candies irritate my stomach and these lemon raspberry-flavored ones are no different, but it's manageable at the small doses required. 

They don't really taste like lemon OR raspberry but are just sweet & tart enough to be palatable.  I prefer the taste of the gummies to drinking a cup or bottle of fizzy powder.  I feel moderately relaxed after eating 2 of them (166 mg) & somewhat drowsy after 4.  The taste grows on ya after a while.  It's not bad, especially for a supplement.  My bowels haven't moved yet but feel like they could.  It's great before a nighttime meditation session as it helps get your body in that relaxed state to lay still & be mindful.  💆


2 Calm gummies

Other ingredients include:  water, organic cane syrup, tapioca syrup & some other "organic" ingredients... as if that matters.  "Organic" is meaningless but if it makes some people feel better, so be it.  Black carrot root is used for color which is better than Red No. 40 or whatever.  The ratings for this product on eBay are universally positive, with its overall rating being 5 stars.

I give Natural Vitality Calm Anti-Stress Gummies from Swanson a 4.8 of 5 stars for effectiveness, flavor & ease of use.  It makes a great gentle stool softener & magnesium supplement, and it's not bad as a calming/anti-anxiety agent either (though not as potent as kava or phenibut).  Of course I'd like if it were a few bucks cheaper but really it's not bad for what you're getting.  The slightly sour taste irritates my stomach lining but what doesn't?  If you like tart candies or drinks you'll have no problem & may even be tempted to eat more than the recommended dose, but I wouldn't advise that or you may be running to the bathroom unexpectedly.  (See viral post above). 

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Down the Memory Hole - The Anthrax Mailings

Anthrax letter addressed to Senator Tom Daschle
Anthrax is a killer disease caused by bacillus anthracis, a rare bacterium that lives in certain animal products & spreads in the air via spores.  It causes 4 main types of infection:  skin, inhalation, injection & intestinal.  In the wake of 9/11, the U.S. was hit with a largely forgotten string of anthrax attacks through the U.S. mail.  The kind of anthrax involved was the inhalation type.  It was a "dry" powder rather than the "wet" type, the former of which requires more refining & is harder to contain during preparation, making it much more deadly.  More on that later.

It was only after the death of suspect Bruce Edwards Ivins in 2008 that the FBI declared him the likely anthrax mailer of 2001.  They did so with certainty even though nearly everyone who knew, worked with & cared about Ivins expressed serious doubts about his guilt.  Legal experts also raised concern that the case against Ivins never would've gotten far in court due to all the reasonable doubt present.  Furthermore, the FBI's previous person of interest, Steven Hatfill, had quietly been cleared & paid a $5.8 million dollar settlement after being wrongly hounded by the agency & media for months.  Was Ivins a convenient scapegoat or active perpetrator?  Or maybe a smaller player in a bigger conspiracy?

 
About Bruce Ivins


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Bruce Edward Ivins

Bruce Ivins was born in 1946 to an unwilling mother who tried to abort him by throwing herself down the stairs, hitting her butt on every step on the way down.  She was cold & physically abusive at times, leading Bruce to become passive-aggressive with his emotions--particularly anger.  Like many troubled geniuses, Ivins was something of a "nutty professor" type but with a darker side that he hid quite well.  So well, in fact, that he had no trouble getting security clearance to work at the highest levels of the military with one of its most restricted bioweapons.  But then again, they never evaluated his psychiatric fitness in the first place back in 1980 when he was hired as a civilian microbiologist at Ft. Detrick.  In fact, he wasn't even banned from Army premises until July 17, 2008...less than 2 weeks before he committed suicide after a lengthy FBI investigation in the anthrax attacks.  
"When I get all steamed up, I don't pout.  I push Bruce Aside, then I'm free to run about!" 
(excerpt from a poem sent from Ivins to former colleague in December 2001)  

Bruce Ivins was successful as a scientist, husband & father with two adopted kids.  He lived in a nice neighborhood & was reasonably well-liked at work.  He enjoyed juggling & the TV show Survivor.  Yet he sought help from psychiatrists through the years for what he called "psychotic tendencies" & took a number of antidepressant & antipsychotic medications.  Dr. David Irwin, his psychiatrist in the late '90s, confided that Ivins was the "scariest patient" he had ever worked with.  Scarier yet, Ivins told his counselor in July 2000 that he'd planned to poison his former assistant Mara Linscott with cyanide, and that he'd previously procured ammonium nitrate to make a bomb.  Thankfully he never carried out these plots.  



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Ivins in his youth

And then there's his well-documented obsession with Princeton sorority Kappa Kappa Gamma and his related stalking of one of its members.  This went on for decades, even after he was married with kids.  He once broke into sorority headquarters & stole their cipher--a secret book of rules & codes that he recited to the members when invited in off the street one night.  They called the cops on him post haste.  All this went unnoticed by the military until the post-2001 investigation.


So Ivins was certainly good for a crime like this on paper.  He had access to the anthrax, a devious interest in poisons & punishing people, a documented psychiatric history & a record of stalking/harassment.  His violent, erratic behavior would only escalate after the FBI began investigating him.


Digging Deeper


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The evidence is suggestive but far from conclusive

But even if Bruce Ivins was "crazy" in general, what motive did he have to send anthrax through the mail?  The FBI's theory is that he was disgruntled about the failure of the anthrax vaccine, which had been blamed in part for causing Gulf War Syndrome by some veterans in the '90s & was being discontinued.  This was his baby; something he'd worked on for years to develop & now he was being told to switch his focus to some other germ, allegedly. 


But peers in the field say this is wrong--that Ivins actually stood to profit from his work on a new anthrax vaccine around the time of the 9/11 attacks.  All he needed was a big event to spark fears (and create a perceived demand) for the vaccine.  Perhaps this was it?  The FBI speculated that, since the anthrax letters instructed recipients to take antibiotics, the sender hadn't intended to actually kill anyone.  Rather, they just wanted to highlight the need for a preventative vaccine during an already safety-sensitive time.  Who better to do this than one of the co-inventors of the new anthrax vaccine?

There were a few holes with this theory, however. 

First, Ivins had no experience manufacturing dry anthrax.  None whatsoever.  His years in the lab were spent working with the "wet" variety which is much easier to handle & less likely to spread & contaminate others.  There were indeed no dead people or animals in the vicinity of Ivins' lab.  Secondly, the spores in the anthrax letter sent to Senator Daschle were tiny--1.5 to 3 micrometres across, many times smaller than the finest known grade produced by the Soviet or American bioweapons programs.  It also contained silicon, an anti-clumping additive, which suggests a high degree of sophistication.  The specialists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory were unable to duplicate this effect after 56 attempts.  That's significant.  



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Portion of the anthrax letter

One of the main accusations against Ivins was that he'd submitted a false set of anthrax samples to the FBI in 2002 as an attempt to throw them off his trail.  These samples didn't show the telltale genetic variants found in both the attack powder & Ivins' lab flask.  However, records obtained by ProPublica, Frontline & McClatchy show for the first time that this is not the case.  Ivins submitted at least THREE other samples after he supposedly tried to deceive investigators in April.  One of these was a match to the attack letter.  This debunks the charge that he was trying to cover his tracks.  Unfortunately, this information was kept from Ivins' lawyer Paul Kemp who was lead to believe his client had deceived the FBI.  How can an attorney defend against a claim he doesn't know isn't true?

There's also no evidence that Ivins made the trip to the mailbox from which the letter was sent.  (This mailbox was a relatively short distance from the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority headquarters).  Furthermore, the FBI lacked proof that Ivins had written the hateful letters meant to mimic Islamic terrorist threats.  There were also questions about the accuracy of the FBI's anthrax morph testers, which picked up conflicting results on the same test tube--one positive & the other negative.  

While Bruce Ivins still may have been involved in the anthrax attacks in some way, all of these flaws in the FBI's investigation would've been problematic in a court of law.  It's dubious for them to claim he would've been "convicted as the anthrax mailer--case closed" when their own evidence was so shaky & they'd already accused the wrong man (Hatfill) in such a public way.  While Ivins definitely had a dark past he deserved to be held accountable for, that doesn't prove he was responsible for the anthrax attacks.  There are a lot of creepy, unstable people walking among us--more than we'd like to imagine.  The percentage of them who go on to commit high-profile terrorist attacks is infinitesimally small.  



Mental Instability As Evidence


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Bruce Ivins in his latter years

The problem with using Ivins' mental instability to retroactively prove his guilt is, that very same instability could've been what drove him to crack under the pressure of a high-stakes FBI investigation with life or even death in prison as the outcome.  Even if he was innocent, the fear of being railroaded & having some of his unrelated dark secrets exposed by the agency could've been too much to bear.  (He claimed he liked to dress in women's clothes & engage in other "kinks" during one interrogation).  Someone with a loose grip on reality or schizotypal personality under that kind of stress could easily slip into paranoid delusions that cause them to say or do things that look suspicious independent of their actual innocence or guilt.  Imagine having your darkest secrets exposed to your kids, wife & co-workers.  The FBI doesn't play.  

Ivins allegedly made violent threats at a therapy group shortly before his suicide according to his therapist Jean Duley.  He also made a "confession" to sending the anthrax letters, claiming he never meant for anyone to die.  While that sounds damning, remember that false confessions are not rare by any means.  Most of his co-workers, friends & family do not support the idea that Bruce was the culprit of this brutal crime.  His funeral & obituary gave no hint of the investigation he was under; he was remembered fondly by those who knew him.  Fellow researcher Henry S. Heine compared accusing Ivins of the crime to "tracing a murder to a store clerk who sold bullets to the actual shooter" & claimed "none of the senior scientists [at the Army's biodefense lab] believed he was guilty".

There are a lot of questions & some residual anger at the FBI for what happened to Mr. Ivins.  He ended his life with a painful Tylenol overdose on July 29, 2008, after a previous suicide attempt shortly before.  The signs were all there:  this was a deeply troubled man who couldn't take the pressure of a lengthy federal investigation.  If they were going to apprehend him, they should've either shat or got off the pot rather than stalking & surveying him, digging through his garbage & interrogating him at work in front of peers.  That would be enough to cause even the most stable person severe distress.  

According to this creepy article, the FBI literally stalked the Ivins family for months:  

Ivins complained privately that FBI agents had offered his son, Andy, $2.5 million, plus “the sports car of his choice” late last year if he would turn over evidence implicating his father in the anthrax attacks, according to a former U.S. scientist who described himself as a friend of Ivins.

Ivins also said the FBI confronted Ivins’ daughter, Amanda, with photographs of victims of the anthrax attacks and told her, “This is what your father did,” according to the scientist, who spoke only on condition of anonymity because their conversation was confidential.
Ivins' co-workers weren't spared either.  One man was hounded until he "sat at his desk & wept."  Ask yourself:  Would this kind of treatment by one of the nation's most powerful agencies cause YOU to crack under pressure?  


Retrospective

In the years since 9/11, the deadly anthrax attacks seem to have disappeared down the memory hole for the most part.  But why?  If this lone nut truly acted alone, how culpable is the U.S. military for not bothering to do a mental health or background check before hiring him to work with such a deadly substance?  And what if he's NOT the only player in the attacks?  What if he wasn't involved at all?  

I think it's possible he was involved but did not act alone.  Maybe his samples were hijacked by someone with ill intent without his knowledge.  The sophistication of the materials suggests government involvement, just as the plutonium poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko did with the Russian government.  Perhaps that's why the anthrax mailings are buried in our collective consciousness & nearly lost to history--they'd rather we forget they ever happened.  

I suspect the attacks were used as yet another justification to go to war with Iraq/Afghanistan by implying they had "weapons of mass destruction" at a time when the country was already reeling from the plane hijackings.  In fact, it was claimed that the anthrax came from an Iraqi source at one point though this was roundly debunked.  The fact that it's the Ames strain & of such high quality proves it was made in a government lab most likely on American soil.  The only question is whether Bruce Edward Ivins was solely, partially or not at all responsible for its creation & mailing.  His conveniently timed death means we'll probably never know.             

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Experimenting With Homemade Cannabis Suppositories

Image result for butt shaped fruit

Yup.  You read that right.  I'm upping my weed game in 2020, bitches.

As much as I love edibles, they do a number on my already-sensitive stomach, preventing it from emptying & causing massive cramping comparable to what I imagine gastroparesis feels like.  This side effect doesn't happen with smoked weed, but I can't just be smoking any ol' time due to my living situation. I figured out recently it was the weed gummies causing this bizarre upper GI cramping, which was a relief since I could simply stop eating them & the pain would go away.  And it has.  But I can no longer get high discreetly throughout the day (on weed anyway).  So now what?

I have a full syringe of Rick Simpson Oil but find it too powerful to take during the day, so I figured:  why not experiment with rectal use?  I know it's not too kosher to talk about shoving drugs up your butt--a practice commonly known as "plugging" or "boofing" --but(t) here I am.  They sell cannabis suppositories at my local dispensary but they cost a whopping $20 plus tax for ONE SUPPOSITORY.  Yeah, no.  Ain't nobody got money for that.  I figured I'd spend much less & make my own at home.  Or try to anyway.


Homemade "Backdoor" Medicine



Suppository moulds (left) & CBD + Rick Simpson Oil 

After checking out a suppository recipe on MerryJane.com, I hustled over to eBay to pick up a suppository mould & some cocoa butter--the only ingredients I'd need to make these bad boys since I already have some Papayahuasca RSO on hand.  I paid $15 for some reusable moulds & $6.40 for 4 oz. of raw cocoa butter.  I also plan to add some crushed up CBD isolate for balance.  You can substitute a lot of different ingredients when making suppositories, such as coconut oil for cocoa butter, but the former is said to melt quicker & cause diarrhea.  And 00 gelatin capsules can be used as moulds if you prefer.  The instructions for my chosen method read as follows:


  1. Put ¼ cup of raw organic cacao butter in a small saucepan.  
  2. Simmer on low heat. Don’t allow it to boil. Just melt the cacao butter. 
  3. After the butter melts into a liquid, add one gram of THC and CBD full extract oil.  
  4. Stir with whisk until cannabis oil and butter have blended together.  
  5. Remove from heat. Place into a small mason jar to cool.  
  6. After five to ten minutes, fill the syringe with the melted full extract oil/butter.  
  7. Place mixture into 2 ml suppository molds.  
  8. Immediately, freeze. In one hour, the suppositories are ready! 


4 oz. bag of cocoa butter - $6!
However, I won't be making such a large batch the first time around.  I only want to experiment with one or two suppositories so I can play around with the dose.  I break off some chunks of cocoa butter into a microwave-safe bowl & cook it for about 1 minute 35 seconds, watching closely to make sure it doesn't boil or smoke.  I then sneak it to my room where I add the RSO & the other ingredients, blending briskly with a plastic fork.  You want to blend it thoroughly so you don't get one suppository with the entire dose & 9 others with none.  

Finally, I dribble the hot cocoa butter into the moulds to cool in the freezer where I leave them for about an hour before putting them in the fridge for storage.  I only added a few drops of RSO to each suppository since I'm exquisitely sensitive to THC & would rather under-dose than go overboard.  They're the perfect consistency after 1 hour in the freezer.  The finished suppositories melt in your hands after a minute or two, so you don't want to hold onto them too long.  They will keep for many months as long as they don't get hot.  Under 75 degrees F should be fine.  


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Someone more professional than me filling suppository moulds

I'm unfortunately very experienced with glycerin suppositories due to my chronic constipation (thanks, opioids) so the insertion isn't a big deal.  It's not fun but you get over it.  You want to go about an inch to 1.5 inches in if possible, then try to lie down & not move much while it dissolves.  This can take some time so be patient (and try not to fart).  Make sure to wash your insertive hand thoroughly after using it.  


If you're a lady, these particular suppositories can also be used vaginally but it will be a lot more messy so grab a panty-liner & plan to be horizontal for a few hours.  (Vaginal suppositories work entirely differently than rectal ones--more like topical cannabis due to the vagina's thicker walls--so do your research before using them this way).  To maximize absorption, empty your bowels before insertion of the suppository.  I do this by using a glycerin suppository before the DIY one.  



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Comparison of bio-availability via different routes.

Why Tho?

Why would anyone want to use cannabis this way?  For starters, medicines administered rectally bypass the liver & stomach, hitting the bloodstream almost as quickly as if they were administered intravenously.  However, there's some controversy about whether cannabis is fully psychoactive when given rectally, with absorption rates ranging from a paltry 3% all the way up to 70%.  Some people report a longer-lasting high with less anxiety & more of a localized warming effect while others say you won't get high at all.  So I'm going into this experiment blind.  

People with conditions like anal cancer, PCOS, fibroids & prostate cancer might benefit from putting cannabinoids closer to the source of the problem via suppositories.  I have endometriosis--a condition that causes uterine tissue to grow outside the uterus & bleed each month, triggering chronic immune activation, inflammation & scarring.  If nothing else, maybe the suppositories will help with my godawful menstrual cramps which I fully expect to get worse since I'm taking a break from my birth control pills.  I also have horrid nausea & IBS symptoms when my endo is left untreated.  At its worst I can look like a woman going into labor with waves of gut-wrenching pain washing over me every few minutes.  At that point I'd try anything to stop the agony.  Too bad they don't make heroin suppositories.  (...do they?)  😎



Finished product (don't judge my nails!)

The Experiment

Making these was really messy & inexact my first time.  I made 4 suppositories with a few drops each of RSO in them.  They kept tipping over & spilling so I lost some of the goo but they ended up being nearly full by the time I froze them.  The RSO was thick & didn't blend too easily with the cocoa butter but eventually came out pretty even.  

After emptying my bowels, I blasted off around midnight.  I'd been feeling like dogshit all day due to PMS-related nausea & cramping so I'm hoping this helps.  Also been kept awake by migraines all week.  Ugh.  By about 12:15 I start to feel something, though it's not the same as when I smoke or eat a gummy.  My vision feels changed & my stomach is starting to rumble audibly (though not uncomfortably).  I'm laying on my bed while the suppository dissolves & can barely feel it in there, which is good because you can definitely feel the glycerin ones.  Am I high or is this placebo?  

At about 12:25 my legs feel like jelly, sort of like if I'd taken a Soma.  I'm not feeling the local warm sensation people write about but there does seem to be a bit of a lower body effect going on.  And my vision remains "crisp".  I just want to lie down & chill.  But I'm not mindfuck high, which is nice.  My sense of time feels altered, but again, it's nowhere near as intense as ingesting THC the normal way.  My mind is clear & my body is heavy.  Who knows?  I may even sleep tonight.  

1:28 a.m. - I fart.  Hard.  The whole room smells of weed.  

1:50 a.m. - Any effects seem to be tapering down.  I think I'll use a higher dose in each suppository next time, but overall I'm happy with the experiment.  Gonna use the next one vaginally to see how that works out.  I wrap the remaining ones in foil & store them in the fridge, hoping my parents don't ask any nosy questions.  

"What's THIS?"  

"Uhh, miniature homemade lip gloss pellets."  

Sure.  

For whatever reason, I can't sleep at ALL tonight.  Likely due to migraine caused by unrelated reasons.  Am up until 6 a.m. with the awful tooth/jaw pain I get before a migraine along with relentless hypomanic insomnia.  I finally take a Xanax & pass out at sunset.  This isn't uncommon for me but 6 a.m. is later than usual.  This makes me think I am absorbing some THC because this is how it typically affects me, making migraines worse (whereas CBD isolate helps).  

Next day I decide to try a vaginal one.  Fuck it, right?  I still have 3 left so might as well.  The experiment goes about the same as the last one--very subtle relaxation & time alteration without the mindfuck of orally ingested cannabis.  I end up lying down & getting very immersed in what I'm doing rather than fiending for my next codeine dose.  The onset is more delayed but, oddly, the effects are stronger than the rectal ones which it's not supposed to be.  I definitely feel impaired & have dry red eyes this time around.  Hmmm.  Maybe the dose was higher in this one?  

My pee smells like weed which is funny.  I wouldn't want to attempt driving or brain surgery in this state of mind, but then I don't do those things on other substances either.  If one could be drunk on weed, this is what it would feel like--total body stone, deeply relaxed & intoxicated but with none of the racing heart/anxiety/paranoia of a head high.  Yet I'm not sedated or drowsy.  It's actually ideal for my needs.  Was not expecting the vaginal suppository to be more potent than the rectal, but here we are, plastered to the wall at 4:41 p.m.  In a good way.  

My biggest piece of advice after repeated use would be:  make your suppositories a compact shape to avoid a mess, and make them potent.  Using the long/thick moulds will result in more mess & leakage...particularly if used vaginally.  Wouldn't want to stick something the size of a glycerin suppository up there.  


TL;DR - Weed suppositories are far more subtle in their psychoactive effects but may provide local pain relieving/healing effects at the right dosage.  Don't give up after one experiment because different doses & routes (rectal vs. vaginal) have different & surprising effects.  If you want the "high" or systemic symptom relief, take your cannabis by mouth.  Or heck...try BOTH!  Weed from both ends has to be better than one, right?
   

Thursday, January 16, 2020

What in the French Fried Fuck Was Wrong With Fred Phelps?!

So, Louis Theroux has a new-ish 2019 documentary on the Westboro Baptist Church called "Surviving America's Most Hated Family".  I would link it here except all the links get taken down due to copyright claims.  But I was able to find a live one last night & check it out.  I've been on a WBC binge ever since.  They're like a slow-motion trainwreck you can't look away from.  They once came to my state & picketed...a tornado or something.  I forget.  But they got chased right the fuck out.

Anyway, I've been interested in the psychology of a family of apparently bright lawyers--11 in all counting Grampa Phelps--who would risk their livelihoods with such a public display of weirdness.  Weirder still, Pastor Fred Phelps was once known for his work as a Civil Rights attorney, often working for free to defend poor Black clients in segregationist Kansas who couldn't afford to pay him.  His family endured taunts like "n***** lover" for years, which he appears to have taken in stride.  Daughter Shirley Phelps-Roper proudly boasts, "We took on the Jim Crow establishment, and Kansas did not take that sitting down."  Indeed, he got much press & attention for his confrontational style in the courtroom which likely kicked off his thirst for media attention later on.  (Not unlike how a Munchausen mom gets addicted to causing sickness in her child after a real illness that garners sympathy).


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Even in his youth (he had the crazy eyes)...


Since Shirley & his other kids grew up being bullied and called names like this, they never knew anything else.  Thus they learned to endure & eventually revel in it like their dad.  But their undying devotion likely has darker origins.  According to departed ex-member Nathan Phelps, father Fred was physically abusive to his wife & kids in the extreme.  "He used his fists. He used his knees and he used ... the handle of a mattock," said Phelps, referring to a pick-like digging tool. "He used that in such a way that it split the skin on the back of the kid's legs so they bled."  He beat his wife so badly that she still has a destroyed right shoulder & bone fragments.  He also liked drinking & prescription pills, attempting an overdose in 1968.  All this undoubtedly shaped his children's views in a major way by giving them lifelong fucking trauma.  (I have little-to-no sympathy for adults who fail to form their own views independent of their parents & even less for those who mindlessly impose hateful views on their children, but it's still important to understand why people are the way they are).

While it's easy to understand why the Phelps kids & grandkids would fall into this sticky trap of crazy, it's much harder to grasp why outsiders would willingly migrate to Topeka, KS, & adopt this oppressive belief system.  Who would put a target on their back to join America's Most Hated Family?  Other nutbars, that's who.  People trickle in from all over the world:  the UK, Asia & various blue states to live & worship with the Westboro Baptists.  They even got a new convert in 2019:  a pansexual man named "J".  (No, really).  Current leader Steve Drain is a so-called outsider who originally came to film a documentary called "Hatemongers" in 2000.  But he was sucked in by the rhetoric & ended up moving his wife & kids to Kansas to join the WBC.  (His daughters Lauren & Libby have since defected, thankfully).  Since Fred Phelps' death, Steve Drain has engaged in a hostile takeover, gathering the elder males of the church behind Shirley's back & appointing himself the de-facto leader by virtue of his maleness.



The lovely Steve Drain


Since Shirley Phelps-Roper & her sisters were always such a frontline force within the church, it's a bit disgusting that this "outsider" would pull rank like this, using scripture to justify his sexism.  But I suppose this is her karma after years of loudly picketing the funerals of soldiers & hate crimes and indoctrinating her own kids--3 of whom have now defected themselves.  Still, it's hard to watch this aging grandmother struggle with the conflict between her deeply ingrained brainwashing & raw human emotions.  She's not only lost her family but also her standing within the cult.  The video below is actually heartbreaking to watch:





However, I'm snapped back to reality when I see her daughter Meagan's reaction to being shunned & ignored by her family after leaving the church.  No matter how these people came to these views, they've continued clinging to them LONG after the age of consent and are now punishing their innocent kids for simply being born & not drinking the Kool-Aid.  Any ideology that would have you disown your offspring simply for not sharing your beliefs is a CULT by definition.

Ironically, it's rumored that Pastor Fred Phelps had a sudden change of heart shortly before his death, telling church elders he wanted to soften the direction of the teachings & even uttering to the gay people in the rainbow-colored Equality House "You're good people."  (WTF?)  Whether that was dementia or a moment of genuine clarity after a lifetime of hate is anyone's guess.  Fittingly, he was de-throned for this 'blasphemous' act by Steve Drain & co and spent his final days mostly alone.  I suppose this was his karma after years of abuse, harassment & hate speech.  And the cycle continues.


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Messages on the Equality House <3


So my take on these people, particularly founder Fred Phelps, is that he was a mouthy contrarian lawyer who got addicted to conflict & the "fighting the establishment" during the Civil Rights era.  When his star faded in that arena (he was disbarred in the 1980's for being an abusive dick in the courtroom), he turned his wrath toward the issue of gays in the local park who would "cruise" for lovers.  He enlisted his family to make colorful signs & the rest is history.  The media couldn't get enough of the GOD HATES FAGS people.  Phelps was a true narcissist through & through, involving himself in politics (once supporting Al & Tipper Gore, oddly) and going on daytime talk shows like Ricki Lake to push his agenda throughout the '90s.  By the 2000's, the lawsuits had started rolling in.  This was Peak Phelps in his prime.  Watch the "Hatemongers" documentary for a glimpse of his unbridled ego in this period.  It would almost be amusing if there weren't so many victims at his feet.  Almost.



If there's a devil, he looks like this pastor.


But to truly find out what makes these people tick, listen to the stories of defected family members Meagan, Nathan, Grace Phelps and Lauren & Libby Drain.  They know where the proverbial bodies are buried.  I suspect they could write many tell-all books on the abuse they suffered as kids in this hellfire-oriented religion.  But so far, they haven't.  They just want to live their lives and have access to their families, which won't happen as long as the cult mindset gets in the way.  And that's entirely up to their parents who were once victims of horrific abuse themselves.


Meagan Phelps-Roper's TED Talk


People have asked whether Fred was a closeted gay man himself, which is a fair question considering his apparent obsession with this one particular "sin" for so many years.  There is evidence that homophobes are often gay themselves & simply projecting their feelings of discomfort onto others.  Not exactly shocking if you have even a base knowledge of psychology.  But I know of no evidence that Phelps was gay.  His obsession seems to have started when gay men in Gage Park attempted to come onto him and his grandson (allegedly).  What's more likely is that he saw local news stories about gays "cruising" for lovers there & got paranoid.  (This is covered in detail in the Hatemongers documentary).

What we do know is he cut ties with his parents & siblings in early adulthood because his dad was not pleased with his decision to become a pastor.  This undoubtedly fed his rage in a general sense, particularly toward the military.  His father had wanted him to stay in the U.S. Military Academy at West Point which he had paid a lot of $$$ to get him into.  But Fred dropped out after a tent revival & the rest is shitty history.  Might he have had a negative experience at the Military Academy...perhaps with sexual assault by a male?  Rape in the military is nearly as rampant as it is in prison so it's a possibility.  There's no way to know, but something definitely happened to turn this man into a hate-filled monster.  Just check out his smirking, belligerent behavior below:


Phelps on Ricki Lake (1993)


In any case, Pastor Fred is dead but the church lives on.  Its message appears somewhat toned down & former leaders have been reduced to supporting roles.  Where rage & vitriol once fueled their sense of purpose, there's now a somber mood instead.  Will the Westboro Baptist Church survive this dark period?  Only time will tell.  What's clear is they are a symptom of a much bigger illness in society--the fatalistic, judgmental attitudes of certain religious people who think they have the answers to all of life & death's mysteries.  The tendency for humans to create God in our image is never so striking as when crusty old Fred Phelps screams "God Hates Fags!"  No sir, YOU hate "fags" and are using the Bible to justify & obscure your bigotry.  At least have the guts to own your feelings.


  



Sunday, January 12, 2020

Calling All Vendors...

If you are an established vendor of legal highs, entheogens or supplements & would like to see your product reviewed on my blog, message me on Twitter @BannedintheUSSA !  Serious inquiries only.  I can't guarantee I'll accept all offers but if I've reviewed a similar product in the past, chances are you'll be accepted. 

I don't pay for samples or accept payments in exchange for reviews written.  Just a sample in exchange for a review.  PM me for additional details.  

Thanks!

-- Forbidden Fruit  
@BannedintheUSSA

[Review] - Kokatonic: Delisse Coca Tea Bags (25 pack)

Vendor:  Kokatonic
Location:  St. Louis, MO.  
Items:  Coca tea bags, coca flour, coca-influenced music.
Rating:  4.8 of 5 stars.
Website:  www.kokatonic.com




I found this vendor, oddly enough, through a Facebook ad.  The legality of coca tea is sketchy so I wasn't expecting to see it openly advertised on social media in a sponsored ad.  Being the adventurous soul I am, I decided to place a small order to see if they were legit.  Since Kokatonic is located in the U.S., I felt more comfortable about ordering.  Their variety is somewhat impressive--a nice selection of coca tea bags, coca flour & what appears to be coca liqueur.  I like the variety of price options too.  They have things ranging from $13 all the way up to the thousands.  I opted to start with a cheap order of Delisse Coca Tea bags (25 pack) to see what happened.

Shipping was fast.  I got my order in about 2 or 3 days.  Can't say the packaging was discreet though; the box had a large KOKATONIC decal on the outside.  My tea came with 2 informational pamphlets rife with misspellings & what are probably illegal health claims according to FDA standards, but they were entertaining nonetheless.  The tea itself is high quality from a well-known brand (Delisse) packaged in Peru.


Top view of tea bags

I like to put a bag in my cheek with a tiny sprinkling of baking soda after using it to make a cup of tea to squeeze every bit of goodness out of it.  If you've never tried coca, it's got a green-tea like flavor...kinda bitter but mild.  It's rich in a number of vitamins & minerals & is great for altitude sickness or other low oxygen disorders.  You can put the powder in smoothies or capsules while the tea bags are self explanatory. 

The effects are sort of similar to those of caffeine but less jittery.  In fact, when brewed into a warm tea, coca actually makes me sleepy rather than stimulated.  It's only when I chew it that I get any stimulation/energy at all.  There's really nothing to compare it to.  I find espresso & Yerba Mate to both be more potent in the stimulant department.  I get minor sound sensitivity from coca which limits the amount I can ingest in a day.  There is a nice burst of focus that comes with it though, and it's less irritating to my stomach lining than caffeine.

"Mate de Coca" tea bags

Overall, I give Kokatonic a 4.8 of 5 stars for shipping time & variety.  Had to knock some points off for the lack of professionalism in the pamphlets & packaging, though it's not a huge deal.  It would just look better if they'd tone it down a bit since coca itself is of questionable legal status already.  My previous coca vendors would take weeks to months to send out orders so this is a huge improvement on that, plus their variety of products is refreshing.  I'll definitely be placing another order before they get too popular & end up backlogged. 

Friday, January 10, 2020

The Lasting 'High' of Meditation

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I know, I know:  everyone's heard about the benefits of meditation & why you should do it.  Almost like some kind of cult, right?  What good does sitting in a lotus position & not thinking about anything for 20 minutes actually do?  Is it a test of wills, or some hippie scam?

For me, every previous attempt at meditation failed miserably.  My internal bodily sensations drove me mad & were magnified by the stillness.  Every tick-tock of the clock made me want to punch a wall.  I had no idea HOW to meditate & gave up every time out of frustration.  Hence my desperate need for inner stillness.  I've always been an impatient person who gets overloaded by my 5 senses & annoyed at people's shortcomings.  I can't focus for shit & have generally low self-esteem.  No amount of medication or therapy has remedied these things entirely.

That's where meditation comes in.

With the new year on the horizon, I decided to try out a meditation app to see if I could give it one last try.  I was not hopeful.  My therapist has given me brief tastes of meditation/visualization in our sessions, which I did get some benefit from.  But her calming voice is not always available to guide me & keep me on track so I generally haven't explored it after our appointments ended.  As stated, I have serious problems with focus & commitment to things that require sustained effort for long-term rewards.  It's a big part of why I'm drawn to the quick gratification of drugs, in fact.


A Lightbulb Moment

The turning point was learning how to meditate & what the actual objective is.  Entire books could be written about this subject (and have been) but the overarching idea is rather simple:  stay in the present moment & remain calm/focused through any negative thought or sensation.  There are a number of apps & websites that can help with this.  For me what worked is listening to an audible guide while meditating.  Calm.com offers free "how to meditate" 12-14 minute sessions that did me wonders.  Simply staring at their calming background scenes is relaxing af.  You can do that the first time you meditate if closing your eyes doesn't feel natural. 

There is no special position you need to sit in (if you choose to sit at all) & you don't have to focus on your breath or any other specific thing.  That's up to you.  The goal is to position your body in a comfortable-but-alert pose where you feel relaxed but don't fall asleep.  If you can do that lying down or standing on your head, great.  Experiment a little until you find what position you like best.  Any sensations that pop up or thoughts that come into your head should be observed but not assigned a judgment or emotion.  Just watch them float by like clouds.  Let yourself drift into a trance listening to the sounds around you & feeling the air on your skin.  Your 5 senses will become a help rather than a hindrance as you get the hang of it.  As you get more comfortable with the technique, you can opt to "take off the training wheels" so to speak & meditate without an audible guide if you like.  Or not.  There is no right or wrong way. 

I have a lot of physical pain in my head, stomach & other places.  Fatigue too.  I'm generally unhealthy compared to most people my age.  The rumbling of my stomach or pain in my neck was a massive distraction when I first started meditating...not gonna lie.  But once you push yourself to sit through it you will find those things easier to deal with when you're NOT meditating.  I think it's worth 10-20 minutes of your day to feel better the rest of the time.



How It Works


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Different types of meditation alter different brain centers (source: Forbes)

A lot of us are outer-directed, taking our cues on how to feel based on external events.  Getting stuck in traffic, unexpected plan changes & other people's moods can wear on us until we feel stuck in a loop of frustration & pessimism.  Regular meditation helps turn the focus inward & train the brain to stay even-keeled in those situations.

It does this by bringing about a state called the "Relaxation Response," which is essentially the opposite of the fight-or-flight response.  While you may not achieve deep relaxation with every meditation, when you do it's quite powerful.  This state is somewhere between sleep & alertness (but something else entirely) and can be compared to sitting on the porch at dusk watching lightning bugs flutter by without really thinking about anything--just taking in the sounds, smells, feelings & other sensations around you.  There are other ways to access this state, such as yoga, massage or visualization, but meditation seems to be especially effective.

Stress is toxic to our body on a physical level.  Meditation helps counteract the effects of stress, particularly in depressed or anxious people who tend to ruminate on negative thoughts & memories.  The benefits of stress relief are almost endless:  improved focus, more resilience, a calmer approach to life's unexpected ups & downs, stronger emotional control & better physical health.  Meditation has shown benefits in conditions ranging from PTSD to gastrointestinal disorders like IBS, though the jury is still out scientifically on just how helpful it is.  But the evidence is strong for its use in a number of other common disorders such as depression, chronic pain & anxiety.


What Meditation DOESN'T Do


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Beware of corporate or overly dogmatic applications of meditation

Meditation is awesome but it's not a panacea.  It won't cure your physical pain or whatever's causing it, though it might help you learn to focus your attention elsewhere so your mind doesn't get caught up in the suffering associated with it.  It won't magically relieve mood, thought or anxiety disorders or replace therapy & medication (or whatever prescribed treatment you're currently using).  It's merely an adjunct to these things... a tool that can help you re-frame your problems in a more manageable & positive light.

Perhaps most importantly, meditation is not a substitute for assertiveness in your day-to-day life.  It's not about becoming passive & receptive to unjust conditions or putting up with an abusive relationship (which you should always strive to LEAVE rather than tolerate).  And it can be hijacked by corporations, cults & other entities for purposes such as these.  This is why it's best to follow your own path & avoid dogma of any kind.  Treat meditation like exercise or any other healthy habit & you'll get the most out of it with the least potential for harm.  Even Calm.com requires payments of $69.99 per year to access their full program, which is not cheap for a lot of us.  So be mindful of where & with whom you meditate (see what I did there?).

In conclusion, there is definitely a lasting sense of peace & inner control that comes from meditation.  One could even compare it to a high of sorts.  The key is consistency & practice, and not setting unrealistic expectations.  If nothing else, you're setting aside a few minutes each day for yourself to be alone & relax.  That's a great habit to get into in this high-pressure capitalist society.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

What's the Deal With: Fioricet?

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This post is about the somewhat rare pharmaceutical butalbital; a barbiturate.  If you're unfamiliar with barbiturates, they include drugs like secobarbital (Seconal), amobarbital (Amytal), pentobarbital (Nembutal) & phenobarbital (Luminal).  Barbiturates are, by and large, obsolete in today's pharmacopoeia.  Benzos have replaced them due to the lower risk of overdose, though the withdrawal & addiction risks are quite similar.  Sometimes other old tranquilizers like Quaaludes & Miltown are lumped in with the barbs, though they aren't technically in the same family.  Common uses for these meds included treatment of anxiety, insomnia, seizures & muscle pain. 

There is one exception, however:  butalbital.  Known by its brand names Fioricet, Esgic & Margesic, butalbital is now prescribed mainly for migraine & tension headache treatment.  I happened to have a liberal doctor in my previous area who prescribed it as a FIRST LINE treatment for my migraines, which is apparently rare.  Now my current doctor continues to fill the script even though he "doesn't really like the med" lol.  Fioricet contains a combo of acetaminophen (300 mg), caffeine (40 mg) & butalbital (50 mg), making it something of an upper/downer combo.  Neato!  Butalbital has apparently been banned in some European nations due to its addictive nature.


History & Pharmacology

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Barbiturates of yore

Barbs act more like alcohol than benzos do.  Unlike benzos, which bind to a subunit on the GABA-a site & increase firing of the neuron, barbs are simple GABA agonists that induce their effects by triggering the brain to convert GABA to glutamate.  Now barbiturates are mostly reserved for assisted suicide & executions due to their reliability as euthanasia both in humans & animals.  Yeah, scary.  This is why you must take care not to overdose or combine with other downers.  Fioricet was approved by the FDA in 1984 for treating migraine & related headaches.  It does work quickly for migraines but that's not why I'm writing about it.  My interest is mostly in its uniqueness & rarity as a barbiturate. 

I have no idea why butalbital survived the barbiturate culling & is still prescribed today, nor why it's a Schedule IV drug (in many states; Schedule III in others) rather than a more heavily controlled substance.  Its effects are definitely heavy; more potent than equal doses of Valium or Klonopin & longer-lasting than Xanax.  It potentiates codeine & other opioids powerfully, but beware:  butalbital by itself can cause respiratory depression in high doses, let alone when combined with other depressants like opioids.  Don't ever combine high doses of the two or drive under its influence.  I guess I would compare its effects most closely to Soma (carisoprodol) if I had to pick. 


Recreational Effects

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Scary 1950's ad for a benzo (Mogadon).

As for the effects, they're somewhere between those of alcohol & benzos.  Your body feels more loose & floaty while your mind is deeply relaxed like with a benzo.  There's a bit of a physical numbness that feels like what I imagine Quaaludes must've felt like.  On the downside, I get all the same miserable after-effects with butalbital that I get from benzos--maybe a little worse.  Low mood, irritability, anxiety & worsening OCD symptoms the next day.  But in the moment you haven't a care in the world.  Butalbital is an intermediate-acting barbiturate that stays in your system for days & induces the P450 enzyme.  This makes it somewhat liver toxic on its own--with the combined acetaminophen it could be dangerous in high doses or if you have liver troubles.  But it's fine for a one-off good time if you don't drink. 

So what's the verdict?  Fioricet can be a somewhat fun & interesting substance if used in moderation.  I probably would give it a 3.5 out of 5 on the 'recreational potential meter'.  I like it best when combined with LOW doses of codeine to spice things up; the combo makes both drugs more interesting than either is alone.  (But again, be careful).  It makes me curious what other barbs were like, as they were highly popular in my parents' day. 

That Time I Tried: 4-HO-MET

I first tried 4-HO-MET around 2012 during the absolute pinnacle of the research chemical Golden Era (2010-2015).  It was the 2nd psychedelic...