Archive News: Sick Day

At the time of this writing, I can’t breathe, my head is pounding, and I’m light-headed and dizzy to the point of nausea. So, as you can guess, I don’t really have the mental strength to pontificate today.

That said, I’d like to take some time to thank everyone for their continuing support. Readership has been very encouraging these last few weeks. I was honestly worried that more controversial topics like my Agnostic interpretation of the Nine Satanic Statements would have driven most people away. But, with only one or two exceptions, it seems that most of you have stuck with me. It shows that you genuinely care about seeing things from a different perspective; even if it’s a perspective you personally don’t agree with. And that should be a sign to everyone that there’s still good in the world and decent, open-minded people willing to build it up.

I’ll have actual content next week folks. For now, I need to sleep off this pain before I have to go to work tonight. Thank you all again.

The Difference Between Types of Addiction (And Why It’s Important to Know Them)

That’s only true if you don’t know anything about the SCIENCE of addiction.
Source: nyacyouth.org

So, here in my home state of New Hampshire, we’ve been working through cannabis legalization for some time. And last month, we saw a huge step towards decriminalization.

Of course, one issue I keep seeing come up is people questioning or challenging the idea of whether marijuana is addictive or not. Well, as someone who studied the science and psychology behind addiction as part of his college life, I wanted to explain something about addiction that most people overlook; there’s a very real chance that you’re using the word ‘addiction’ wrong and that’s because people use (or misuse, as the case may be) the word to describe three very different problems that I’d like to explore with you.

Physical Addiction

This is what most people in the scientific community mean when they talk about whether or not something is addictive.

The way things we do or consume that make us “feel good” work is by triggering the release of stored dopamine that binds to dopamine receptors in the brain and creates a feeling of mild euphoria as a reward to encourage that behavior.Drugs like cocaine, nicotine, and alcohol (yes, cigarettes and booze are drugs) work by increasing dopamine production and, essentially, flooding your brain in dopamine.

There’s a problem though; having too much dopamine in you all at once can cause the aforementioned receptors to become desensitized while natural dopamine production drops off. This means that you need more of your fix to get less than stellar results over time.

Cannabis, however, doesn’t work like that. While it does trigger dopamine release, it doesn’t directly increase its production. As such, it doesn’t desensitize receptors or reduce natural production with extended use. Therefore, It’s NOT physically addictive.

That said, you can’t exactly sleep on cannabis. While physical addiction isn’t a problem, you still have to contend with…

Physical Dependency

Have you ever skipped your morning coffee and felt like complete ass the rest of the day until you finally get your caffeinated bean buzz? Well, congratulations; you are the victim of a physical dependency.

Physical dependency occurs when the long-term use of a particular drug results in negative, often painful, withdrawal symptoms after being taken off the drug in question. It’s basically your body’s version of the time you were running late and couldn’t find your car keys causing you to freak out because, “GODDAMN IT, IT WAS JUST HERE!”

This is a serious issue with cannabis and withdrawal symptoms DO exist. However, it’s worth noting that the withdrawal symptoms of Cannabis are arguably no worse than caffeine withdrawal. And unlike dependencies with other drugs like heroin (which have the potential to be lethal), the symptoms are often manageable enough to be handled without a doctor using nothing more than drinking water and exercise.

Now you’d think that would close the issue, right? It’s possible to be dependent without being addicted. Ergo, Cannabis is non-addictive but can result in dependency if used too often or starting use too young. However, there’s another form of “addiction” we need to discuss…

Psychological Addiction

Typically speaking, medicine doesn’t delve into psychological addiction. That’s because, in psychological addiction, the problem isn’t physical; it’s mental.

That’s not to say psychological addiction is psychosomatic or “not a real problem;” it’s just harder to pin down the cause. The causes for psychological addiction include genetic disposition, environment, mental health, and much more.

But, the point in cases of psychological addiction is this; the object of obsession is NOT the primary cause. The problem is that the person has formed a mental/emotional link to an object to the point that they can’t function normally without it.

So, there is a potential for cannabis to be psychologically addictive. However, 1) cases are extremely rare, 2) Weed is not the problem, and 3) by the definition of the term, ANYTHING can be psychologically addictive. That’s why people are constantly claiming addiction for things like social media, video games, and sex. The objects themselves aren’t addictive; the “addict” is just using them the same way Linus from Peanuts used his security blanket and similarly freak out without them (though not always to the same degree).

Why Know The Difference (Beyond Just Cannabis)?

So, beyond making a credible defense against the anti-weed crowd, why should YOU care so much about knowing the difference between these three categories?

Well, for starters, addiction is a very serious problem that damages the physical and mental health of those that suffer as well as puts a strain on friends and family. By constantly misusing the term “addiction,” we diminish the problem for sufferers and those close to them.

What’s more, knowing the different types of addictions/dependencies helps provide insight on how to better treat suffers. By finding solutions to the physiological end of the problem (i.e. finding ways to repair damage and weaning the body off a chemical safely) while providing for the victim’s psychological needs (addicts have been found to respond to treatment better when kept mentally amused and allowed to socialize), we can give these people the help they ACTUALLY need when they need it.

An Agnostic’s Interpretation of Religious Philosophies: The Nine Satanic Statements

Despite what some may insist, even The Devil has standards of practice.
Source: Scott Divine on Facebook

When I was working on my first degree in college, I took a course in Comparative World Religions during my first semester. As it turned out, I found that I enjoyed learning about other faiths and their philosophies even though I never really found a deity that I truly believed in.

I also found that a lot of faiths that I had been told about when I was younger were highly misinterpreted and I found a measure of happiness from better understanding those that are misunderstood.

So, what I would like to do is attempt to start an occasional series here about applying various religious philosophies to everyday life for the betterment of the self as well as to dismiss the myths surrounding these faiths to encourage understanding among various peoples. I’d love to learn more about and discuss any religion you would like to suggest. But for now, I’d like to start with the most controversial religion of MY day; Satanism.

Satanism has been seeing a return to popular consciousness after the “Satanic Panic” of the 80’s and 90’s – mostly due to political activism on behalf of The Satanic Temple (they’re the ones who want to erect a statue of Baphomet next to the Ten Commandments monument in Arkansas in protest of religious favoritism). So I thought it might be a good place to start the ‘promote understanding’ part of my mission statement.

For the sake of simplicity, I think I’ll start with an analysis of a (comparatively) small section of the philosophy – the Nine Satanic Statements, as they are designed to give a general overview of the faith as a whole. What’s more, I’ll be quoting from Anton LaVey’s own Satanic Bible as that is the text my generation is most familiar with. So let’s start from the top with…

“Satan represents indulgence instead of abstinence!”

I mentioned in my revision of the seven deadly sins how I felt that so-called sins like Gluttony, Lust, and, Greed were too strict, too vague, or just plain bogus. And if the near universal image of a Satanist as a religious party animal is any indication, they would seem to agree.

Now, I’ve spoken with practicing Satanists (they’re actually very charming individuals who know how to carry on an enjoyable, friendly debate), and I can safely say that they aren’t expected to indulge in EVERY vice ALL the time. There is still an air of ‘enjoy responsibly’ among them. Really, this statement is more an affirmation to enjoy life and the finer things in it. After all, you can’t play in the middle of the street if you’ve never even seen the far curb.

“Satan represents vital existence instead of spiritual pipe dreams!”

This seems to deal with the idea in some religions of an eternal reward in some grand afterlife for following the faith to the letter – what we philosophers call ‘Transcendence’.

But as discussed in my combination argument against suicide/love letter to Albert Camus, Transcendental Thinking distracts from the now. There’s just as much proof for the lack of an afterlife as for its existence. As such, it’s a much safer game to live in the moment and use our ‘vital existence’ to do good works NOW rather than sweat over the ‘spiritual pipe dreams’ of a future we can never know.

“Satan represents undefiled wisdom instead of hypocritical self-deceit!”

Again, I’m reminded of my Deadly Sins revision. In it, I listed Delusion as one of the new sins. And in more flowery prose, this seems to agree.

Faith is important; it gives us the strength to continue some days. But it’s important – more so now in the age of social media and ‘fake news’ – to temper faith with doubt. Otherwise, being wrong will feel absolutely right.

“Satan represents kindness to those who deserve it instead of love wasted on ingrates!”

This is something my father taught me as a child and I wish I had listened to him sooner. I kept a lot of abusive ‘friends’ and manipulative people in my life for far too long out of a self-imposed obligation to be kind to everyone regardless of what they did to me and I’m still recovering from most of them.

So I’m going to tell you what my dad told me in his exact words, “If someone isn’t contributing to your overall happiness, CUT THEIR F***ING ROPE.”

“Satan represents vengeance instead of turning the other cheek!”

I’ve never enjoyed taking petty vengeance on people. However, I can say from my experience throughout high school that ‘turning the other cheek’ is just a free license to some people – a message that they can do whatever they want to you with no repercussions.

There is absolutely no shame in defending yourself (in an appropriate and equal fashion, of course) from bullies, thugs, and goons. Anyone who says otherwise is trying to get you to leave yourself open.

“Satan represents responsibility to the responsible instead of concern for psychic vampires!”

Nobody likes a leech. Some people are content to form any number of parasitic relationships with others and bleed them dry rather than try to lift themselves up to a higher standard. I shouldn’t have to tell you that those people should be avoided at all costs, but that’s why I’m saying it to you all.

Still, there had to be a less silly term than ‘psychic vampire.’ I would have gone with ’emotional parasite’ or something.

“Satan represents man as just another animal, sometimes better, more often worse than those that walk on all-fours, who, because of his ‘divine spiritual and intellectual development,’ has become the most vicious animal of all!”

My mother and I will often joke about how the beasts of the earth are often more sympathetic than people. That said, from a purely scientific and psychological standpoint, I get this.

Humans ARE animals – incredibly exceptional animals with a great capacity for intelligence, but animals all the same. And like any animal, we have our basic drives, needs, and urges. To think we are anything more than that simply by virtue of our perceived intelligence is self-delusion… and we already know how Satanists and I feel about self-deceit.

“Satan represents all of the so-called sins, as they all lead to physical, mental, or emotional gratification!”

Well… that’s pretty self-explanatory, init? The Christian Sins forbid indulgence and Satanism is the antithesis of Christianity. Ergo, Satanists embrace the sins of Christianity.

I did go into this in brief when I was pulling apart the philosophy of The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth. But combined with the rest of these statements, it paints a more vivid picture of living for your happiness and comfort rather than those of the ones who would use you.

“Satan has been the best friend the Church has ever had, as He has kept it in business all these years!”

Heh heh. Clearly, Anton knows it’s always good to end on a laugh – especially a laugh that has a grain of ironic truth to it.


So, Satanists aren’t the cruel, wicked sadists many of us were taught to think they were, are they? Turns out, they care a great deal about human welfare and happiness. And whether you personally follow the faith or not, it may be beneficial to your mental health to try to work their philosophy into your daily life.

Again, if you have a religious philosophy that you would like to see discussed and explained here, please let me know. This is as much an educational journey for me as it is intended to be for those that read this. If there’s enough interest, I’d love to continue this as a series.

The Agent Reviews A Game… UPDATE: The NEW Pokèmon Go

Catching ’em all just got a bit more interesting.
Source: Business Insider

As of the writing of this, we are one week from celebrating the one-year anniversary of the release of Pokèmon Go. Personally, I hope to hang out at a HUGE meet-up in Nashua, NH while celebrating a friend’s birthday (provided I get the time off).

And just in time for the festivities, Niantic Labs and Nintendo have made some major changes to the game that – in my eyes, at any rate – are much needed and long overdue.

There are three major changes to this year-one update we need to concern ourselves with; the revamped gym battle system, the new raid battle system and some new items to improve gameplay.

The Pokèmon Gyms have been completely rebalanced to encourage a more competitive atmosphere and the changes are simple enough to follow. They are as follows:

  1. Gyms, in addition to their original functions, now also act as special Pokèstops that give additional bonuses if spun by someone of the same team controlling the gym.
  2. The max number of Pokèmon allowed at a gym has been reduced from ten to six.
  3. Pokèmon will defend the gym they are assigned to in the order they have been placed, not by order of CP Level.
  4. No gym may have more than one of the same kind of Pokèmon.
  5. Instead of training to level up a gym to assign more Pokèmon and battling to lower gym levels and remove Pokèmon, a motivation system has been introduced.
    • Frequent defeat will cause a Pokèmon to lose morale – temporarily lowering its CP level until it’s motivation reaches zero and it returns to the owner.
    • Motivation can be restored by feeding any berry to a Pokèmon, thus returning its CP up to its original point and allowing it to defend longer.
  6. When a Pokèmon is removed from a gym, it returns to its owner with a number of Pokècoins to be used in the shop based on the amount of time spent defending.

These changes make the gym battles so much more enjoyable. There’s more of a challenge and incentive to try to defend and maintain gyms, you can’t cheese people with a wall of Snorlaxes or Blisseys, fresh faces are more likely to appear in gyms, and gym defense rewards are applied automatically.

Gyms also serve as the site for the other new addition to the game; raid battles. What is a raid battle? Well, you remember that scene in the trailer where everyone in a major city gathers in the middle of the square to ROFL-stomp Mewtwo? Yeah, it’s like that.

Raid battles are group efforts of up to 20 players to take down a RIDICULOUSLY overpowered Pokèmon – up to and including legendaries – using the same battle mechanics as the gym battles. Should the group be successful, everyone involved is granted a number of Premier Balls (you know, those white Pokèballs you get in the other games for buying other balls in bulk) based on their individual performances. You then get the opportunity to use those Premier Balls to capture the raid boss (note that I said OPPORTUNITY; you can still fail to catch it as with any wild Pokèmon). I sadly didn’t get to join a group, but I did solo a lower level Croconaw that I was fortunate enough to catch with my second ball.

Finally, these raids can also net you new items. They include Golden Razz Berries (a more powerful version of the normal Razz Berry that also fully restores motivation), Rare Candy (used to level up ANY Pokèmon) and Fast and Charged TMs (used to change the fast and charged attacks of your Pokèmon).

So, what do I think of the changes? Well, like I said, these are all changes that the game desperately needed to add challenge and renewed interest in the game. It won’t result in the server-destroying frenzy we saw when the game first dropped, but it has clearly brought some players back to the fold and is catching some fresh eyes.

If I had to complain about anything, it’s that the shop still doesn’t have options to buy stronger Pokèballs beyond the standard model. That would have been the first thing on my list. All you would need to do is give an appropriate price hike for the boost in quality.

Still, you can believe that I’m playing harder than ever before now that this update dropped. I hope to see you out in the field on the anniversary.

Archive News: BRB, Housesitting…

Just real quick, folks. My roommate and our landlady/her boss left me in charge of looking after the homestead this week. So, as to be expected, I’m a bit overwhelmed caring for two houses (complete with pets, gardens, etc.) while juggling work.

What’s more, I’ve been trying to make bigger leaps into the Archive Video Project. I unexpectedly found a reasonably priced camcorder and have been trying to build a decent, makeshift set to record – thus resulting in a major shift from my original vision.

Overall, I just need a day or two to sort everything out and get back on my feet. Hell, I may make a stay-home spa day of it before I have to go to work tonight. I’ll see you all next week.

The Agent on Diets and Calorie Counting (or “A Case For Body Positivity”)

It’s not a good sign when you identify with the people in photos of a study on starvation.
Source: BBC News

I’ve made it no secret that I am deeply in favor of the notion body positivity. I believe that a person has the right to be happy in the flesh they’re in without feeling like they have to remold themselves to appease others. And if they DO remold themselves, it should be of their own volition – because they want to see themselves become their own ideal; not the ideal of others.

Unfortunately, there’s always been one aspect of body positivity that I’ve always failed at and struggled with – namely, applying it to myself.

You know the old saying by now; “You are your own worst critic.” And quite frankly, I’ve always been guilty of harshly judging myself; sometimes to the point of self-hate. I could talk at length about the various flaws I see in my personality, but this is about hating my body and I have plenty to talk about in that regard alone.

I hate how flat my butt looks in a mirror. I think that my pudgy, Scottish chin is disgusting. Seeing the thick, masculine carpet of hair on my arms and chest makes me feel unclean. I’ve always felt physically weak and pathetic compared to other people; especially when compared to my father – a former U.S. Army Sergeant and body building enthusiast with access to training and conditioning I could never hope to get and I doubt I could even live through.

So, last week, I lost that positivity and self-love. I caved in and started a strict calorie counting regiment.

I didn’t even make through Sunday before I remembered why I needed that positivity.

This diet was VERY tight. I was barely eating over 2,000 calories a day and burning more than TWICE that much through my day job and regular exercise which consists of a daily 3-mile (just under 5-kilometer) power walk through a heavily forested park. I knew that this was a stupid idea, but I stuck with it because I hated myself so much that I was going to see myself change or destroy myself in the process.

Combine this forced malnutrition with a sudden heat wave in the area, stress from work, a lack of a consistent sleep schedule and guilt at taking my frustrations at ALL OF THIS out on others, and it’s no surprise that my moment of realization at what I was doing to myself came to me in the form of a bout of sleep paralysis and vivid hallucinations involving nauseating fractal patterns, faces contorted in agony and (inexplicably) a leopard-faced man that I’m still trying to figure out whether he was supposed to be the demon Flauros or King from Tekken.

The most absurd thing about all of this though is that I should have known better. This is a similar scenario to what I went through back in middle school when I would skip lunch because of people taunting me. It left me pale, sickly, thinly drawn and so weak that I couldn’t even leave the house some days. I had forgotten that my self-hate had nearly killed me over 20 years ago and I almost let it try to do me in again.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that, in terms of health improvement goals, you really need to pay attention to your body instead of the criticisms of yourself and others. The numbers that your Fitbit churns out might give you some insight as to the whys and hows, but they can’t tell you what you ACTUALLY need. Push your body to new levels, but not to the point of self-destruction. Know your limits and steadily condition yourself over time.

Remember, it’s YOU and no one else that needs to want the change and change requires time. Clarity, patience, and effort; those are the keys to self-improvement and self-love.

The Kathy Griffin Debacle: Yet Another ‘Everyone’s An A-Hole’ scenario

Do I look shocked? I’m trying to do my best ‘shocked’ face. No? Eh, whatever.
Source: TMZ

Well, I think I’ve let this issue smolder long enough where I can safely discuss it.

For those who somehow managed to escape the raging dumpster fire that is the current American political landscape (god, I envy you…), there was a big to-do amongst the bizarre political choices and ego-centric tweets when stand-up comedian, writer, and actress Kathy Griffin took her criticism to the extreme by posing for photos while standing with a blood-soaked head resembling that of Donald Trump.

Naturally, folks lost their minds. People immediately ran to verbally lambaste and defend Kathy in a flurry of unhelpful rage.

Let’s keep this short and sweet, shall we? I have absolutely NO LOVE for Trump as a light search on my Twitter feed will reveal. I think he’s immature, incompetent, self-serving, and rude. What’s more, he lacks the intelligence to run his own business effectively, let alone an entire country.

That said, what Kathy did was stooping down to his level in my mind. This was her equivalent of Trump’s “bomb the s*** out of them” line; an empty threat that she can’t possibly deliver on and served no purpose other than to get everyone pissed off because blind rage is more effective at getting a message out than gentle understanding.

Of course, there’s also the plaintiff cries of how, not long ago, we endured 8 years of similar threats to Barrack Obama and that those offended now are being hypocritical. Rest assured, those people do exist and are just throwing a temper tantrum about THEIR idol being mocked at best and genuinely horrible human beings at worst. But, just because “they” did it first doesn’t give “us” the right to be just as terrible. Don’t you hear how infantile that sounds when you describe it?

Besides, such thinking disregards those who refuse to condone such behavior and robs them of their voice in the matter. There are some people out there who would call Kathy AND the Anti-Obama folks out equally for being childish, barbaric or both… people like me, for instance.

I’m of the opinion that we should be living in a world where we are mature and intelligent enough to recognize such obvious hyper-inflated bombast through violence as the weak attempts at humor/social commentary that they are and not give such people the dignity of occupying valuable space in our brains. I, for one, put to much value on my thoughts to pay attention to idle threats and long to hear some actual, meaningful dialogue on the topic that can ACTUALLY fix the problem so that I and everyone else on this blue-green space rock that I love so dearly can go on living constructive and meaningful lives.

In conclusion, I offer this message to the world; put away your effigies and torches, calm your butt-hurt feelings down, and try to contribute to the discussion on how to fix what you – in all likelihood – helped to break for a change.