Saturation Saturday: Black

black clouds over Jakarta

black lab

black widow

black kitten

black cat


Jack Black in black

with a knick-knack paddy whack
(fossil found beside the Black Sea)

Medical Marijuana (4): Botanical Chemistry

I am going to guess that just about everyone knows the active ingredient in marijuana is THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). That's what gets you high. But like so many other plants, chemical compounds, prescription medications, herbal remedies and drugs -- that's not all that's going on chemically when we introduce marijuana into our system.

I have already written about the two sub-species of marijuana (indica and sativa) but there are other properties to be considered. The one I want to discuss today is CBD or cannabidiol. Often the strength of pot is measured by its THC percentage but that is only one of several cannabanoids that are present in most marijuana. CBD is one of those 'others' and has some remarkable qualities including reducing what some refer to as the social isolation or 'anti-social' qualities of prolonged marijuana use. 

CBD has also been shown to be a primary factor in treating nausea, anxiety and inflammation. Even more interesting is that as some growers hybridize for more CBD, they are discovering pot that provides various medical benefits while inhibiting the typical marijuana high.

High CBD extractions have also shown early promise in lowering the aggressiveness of breast cancer cells and limiting their invasiveness. Note to dispensaries, labeling that includes CBD testing results will draw customers.

As entrepreneurial growers are given more and more incentives to produce a wider range of products, the trend towards unique blends should provide higher and higher CBD potent strains, which may provide easily stoned patients like myself the ability to gain the medical benefits of marijuana without the associated intoxication.

PRODUCT REPORT: Suckers & Hard Candy

I will preface this report with the stipulation that I am not a big hard candy guy. In addition, it is very difficult to regulate your consumption when you are sucking on a marijuana lollipop. I suppose if you want to sit at your desk and get high with a piece of candy this would work, but as a delivery vehicle for a medically titrated dose, well these suck. Also, it amazes me with all the sweet sticky sugar base used in these treats, candy makers seem unable to make them taste like anything but a vaguely disguised garden compose heap. My advice, go with cookies, pies, cakes; they easily cover the bitter green flavor of the plant, particularly the chocolate based products.

That being said - the Lolle-zing suckers can and do deliver a large dose of THC (56 mg) per pop. They are publicly unobtrusive if that is an issue for you. However, despite the alleged flavors (I tried lemon and pomegranate) they taste like old, moldy grass.

Previous posts in this series:

Two Characters & Several Decades

It has come to my attention that at least two of my friends feel there is a recent movie out (on cable) in which the lead character reminds them of me. Before I reveal which contemporary film has led them to that comparison, I want to tell a much older but similar story.

Back in the late 80s I was at a party with my 'L.A. family,' all the usual suspects were there. I discussion of favorite movies came up and I guess I mentioned The Big Chill, to which someone responded: "Well, of course you like that movie, William Hurt played you." I remember objecting to that comparison while the chorus of agreement grew on the other side. I countered with the age disparity and someone suggested I was probably more like the character of Nick when I was younger.

Sure I could vindicate myself, I picked up a nearby phone and called my best friend from the 70s. We hadn't spoken in over ten years (well before The Big Chill was released), I was sure Lee would save me. Valerie got on the extension to verify I did not lobby for a favorable result. The conversation went like this:

"Lee! It's Tim.

"Tim, wow it's been a long time."

"Hey Lee, I'll call tomorrow and we can catch up, but I have a herd of people here who are disparaging my character. I need to ask you a question."

"Go for it, I'll save you buddy."

"OK, I assume you've seen The Big Chill."

"Oh, you mean the film where William Hurt played you..."

OK, let me admit it again as I did that day long ago. (Apparently) I had some similarities to the character of Nick in The Big Chill as played by William Hurt. By the way he followed up that role with his Academy Award winning portrayal of Luis Molina in Kiss of the Spider Woman.

Now to the current film. Also apparently, I seem to share some lifestyle characteristics with the George Clooney character in Up In The Air. I saw the film again last night, I think I have distilled the similarities to this one scene. The Clooney character is discussing love and relationships or the lack thereof with his female protege. She is pro-love naturally and he not so much. The scene finishes with this dialog.

"Do you know that moment when you look into somebody's eyes and you can feel them staring into your soul and the whole world goes quiet?"


"Well, I don't."

I think this time I shall not argue with the cinematic homology.

Budget (Debt) Numbers

The Outstanding Public Debt of the United States Federal Government as of 25 Jul 2011 at 01:45:42 PM GMT was:
(click on the number for a current update)

In consideration of the partisan bickering going on in Washington D.C. these days - Today, some numbers to consider.

I googled "percent of U.S. budget" and got these very mixed numbers.

Defense Department between 20% and 31% - it depends on whether retirement benefits are a defense cost or put into social welfare or lumped with medicare and social security. Then there is the matter of Iraq and Afghanistan, because they are separately funded by Congress, they are often not included in the budget calculations for the Department of Defense.

Social Security - 20% of outflow but 0% of current taxes, because SS is already funded (though that money may run out in about 11-13 years). Any social security "fix" will have future implications for the budget debt but no immediate effect.

Interest on the national debt = 6% of total budget, but some of that is the federal government paying itself because the Treasury buys back high interest bonds before they are due and many of those debt instruments are held by other parts of the U.S. government.

If Defense, Social Security and Medicare are not on the table for budget discussions, then 61% to 79% of national government outflow is not even being considered.

A couple of more really interesting numbers. All the U.S. debt held by the Chinese (and they hold the most of any foreign country) equals less than 8% of the outstanding U.S. debt. The biggest holders of our debt - US. What with IRAs, pension funds, mutual funds, insurance companies and our dear bailed out banking system; we hold over 72% of our own debt.

Still, Fourteen Trillion Dollars seems like a significant number - $14,000,000,000,000+

Saturation Saturday: Green

Charia by Dale Chihuly
at Aria in Las Vegas
photo by Amy Calistri

Gaia is Green


green snake

green eggs & ham

green aurora over Greenland

it ain't easy being green

Medical Marijuana (3): Human Experimentation

This really is human experimentation. The human being would be me and the experimentation being necessary because the self-serving medical establishment coupled with reactionary social policies have prevented responsible investigation into the medical uses of cannabis. But I did say earlier that I was going to avoid the politics of pot, at least until later; so let's get back to experimentation.

Each morning my baseline medical question is:
"How am I feeling today?"

The start of the day's data collection has many variables to be considered:
-levels of pain, stiffness, inflammation, range of motion;
-what medications, if any, do I plan to use?
-what exercise do I undertake both directly and indirectly aimed at my aching back?
-what exercise did I do yesterday?
-how was the night's sleep?

Then I need to observe how the day goes and over time hopefully figure out why. Prior knowledge informs me that how I feel in the evening is not always dependent on the above variables or how I felt upon arising. Sometimes x = y and other times not so much. All of which goes to say that this is tricky. And with the medical marijuana even more so because the effects are not consistent. 

Let me illustrate with my first product review.

PRODUCT REPORT: Sweet Relief Hot Cocoa

A professionally packaged powdered product consisting of: Pure Cane Sugar, Dry Whole Milk, Dry Nonfat Milk, Ground Chocolate, Unsweetened Cocoa, Mini Marshmellows, Salt, Cannabis Extract (each package contains the equivalent of 1/2g-2/3g dried cannabis flowers). The package instructions state one serving but does not suggest dosage. Powder can be mixed with hot water, milk or coffee. Like all instant cocoa mixes, it's better with milk than water.

My first experiment was to drink a 1/8 serving on an empty stomach. As I have previously disclosed, I am a lightweight when it comes to the effects of cannabis. So I start slow and increase the dosage as I go along. A one-eighth dose did not cause any of the effects associated with being high but I also felt no discernible pain relief. At noon I took another 1/8 and noticed some pain relief (or it was just a good day and around midday my back had loosened up). A final 1/4 dose around 6 pm with some clear pain relief.

Two days later I took the entire remaining 1/2 dose from the first packet; some mild pain alleviation over six hours. No marijuana buzz noticed. End of first packet/full dose of Sweet Relief, notice I had no "high" effects at all.

The second does of Sweet Relief, was divided in a 1/2 dose on day one; and 1/4 on days two and three. In days one and three, I got a pot high; on day three (1/4 dose) it was what I consider too much for normal functioning. There was a good deal of pain relief with the 1/2 dose but none on the following two days. However, days two and three were very stiff and sore days on awakening.

So you see the problems with good data collection. Plus I have now tried this one product in combination with both smoked product and a topical spray. So I really have some combination reports to write up. Yes, this is indeed going to be tricky.

Previous articles in this series:
Medical Marijuana (1): An Inquiry
Medical Marijuana (2): The Dispensary

All Those (42) Years Ago

If you are over 47 or 48 years old, you know exactly where you were 42 years ago today.

If you would like to lightly reminisce, here is a unique point of view. The First Lunar Landing as told by the astronauts.

One small step.

Reflecting Your Life

Twenty plus years ago I made a series of continuing education tapes for real estate license renewal in California. I got studio time only after the "big names" in real estate got their shot. The problem was simply that none of them had ever done live to video before and they sucked at it. The studio tech staff went crazy dealing with the prima donnas and incompetent speakers. Then they decided to give others a shot. I was one of the "others."

I brought coffee and pot for the crew and told them just to turn on the cameras, I would start talking and we would put in all the graphics and low-lines in post-production. In other words, we would shoot the tapes they way they were meant to be shot.

After my first day of shooting I took 150 raw minutes of tape home to watch over the weekend and dream up appropriate visuals to edit into the final product. You see unlike those "real estate professionals" I had actually taught before; so I knew that all the notes in the world only meant confusion on the screen. My system was to just talk for 50 minutes (end of tape); then talk for another 50 minutes and repeat. Then I would watch the footage to see what I said and write an outline to fit what was on the screen. Seemed like a good plan and it worked but there is one more part of the story I wanted to tell today.

The next day I popped the first tape into the VHS player and sat down with a pad of paper. A couple of minutes into the lecture I thought: "Now that's a really good point, I should write that down, so I don't forget it." About half way through my note taking I stopped, looked up at the screen and realized I was taking notes on myself. I had impressed me! Talk about a mutual admiration society.

The other story comes from the writing of Check Raising the Devil. Our process was to get all of the interviews and research done on a chapter, then to rough draft it and then to read it out loud to Mike to get his comments and corrections. I have mentioned before that some of the best scenes in the book came from Mike adding some juicy tidbits during this reading of the drafts.

This one time, Mike had wanted his manager and another person to sit in on a reading to get their take on how the project was coming along. My co-author Amy was in town for this session, it was really a litmus test of whether or not we had captured Mike's authentic voice. This chapter was about a particularly dark and difficult time in Mike's life, it had taken several interviews sessions and a few different approaches to get all the painful details out of him.

I was reading the pages out loud and about mid chapter I began to feel the gravity of what we were disclosing. I paused and glanced over at Amy, I could see on her face she was feeling it as well. She nodded towards Mike as if directing my attention. I looked at him and saw he was in tears, not the only tears in the room as it turned out.

Imagine the darkest time of your life, then imagine having those scenes, those dark times you lived through, having them read to you with professional setting, timing, scene structure and dialogue. Imagine having your life reflected back to you in word, deed, voice or videotape. I can tell you it's a surreal and profound experience no matter which side of the screen you occupy.

Apartment with a View

A regular reader pointed out that I have not shared any window gazing from my high perch here in Berkeley; at least not recently. So today a few peeks or peaks from my windows on the San Francisco Bay. The first shot above will be familiar to many Bay Area residents and summer visitors - the fog.

For those who haven't read my previous ruminations on my view, the City of San Francisco is out there about ten miles, that's Treasure Island and the Bay Bridge in the middle ground halfway across the Bay. 

[on most computers you can click on the picture to get a bigger & better view]

Just to the right/north of the city picture are the twin spires of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Here's a shot of the City on a bluer day.

...and then there is the ever changing light from the western sky, here giving the Golden Gate some backlighting.

To the north, further right, are the Marin Headlands and Mt. Tamalpais; in the summer months the sun sets around the peaks.

 Sometimes gold.

other times...

Saturation Saturday: Brown

brown roses


brown bear

turtle brownie

brown pelican

mint brownie

Chocolate Fountain at
Bellagio in Las Vegas

extra happy brownie

Charlie Brown

Medical Marijuana (2): The Dispensary

Non-Californian residents might be surprised how many little towns and crossroads here in the Golden State now support a medical marijuana dispensary. Being that I live in the great San Francisco Bay area, I have many choices of which facility to use. So naturally, being a researcher, I needed to survey the possibilities. Thus far I have visited eight dispensaries in Berkeley, Oakland and San Francisco. They range from the back of a coffee shop to a a highly professional, one-on-one exclusive operation with very knowledgeable sales staff.

When I say 'back of the coffee shop' I mean walking past the big steel and copper steamer and the cases of pastries to a back room which could only have been a store room before its conversion and speaking to the owner/operator/clerk through a double pained glass shield; he in the storeroom section and me in the 5'x10' anteroom. 

At the other end of the spectrum is the wonderful Vapor Room in the Lower Haight district of San Francisco. A few of the dispensaries have a cabaret licenses, which means they can allow customers to light up on the premises. After purchasing some product there, we sat down and lite up a bowl of a particular strain we had been searching for. The three of us on that day's excursion shared the product and I collected notes for my experiment from three rather than just myself. 

When we emerged from the Vapor Room, one of my companions said: "Wouldn't it be great if adults could do exactly what we just did? No fear, no hassles."

My response was: "We just did."

While I intend to check out several more dispensaries over the course of this experiment, I will say now that they are going to need to go a long way to top the Harborside Health Center in Oakland. A true co-op, they prefer to obtain their product from patient-members. They offer free classes and services including yoga, reiki, chiropractic and more. They also do more analysis of their product than is required by state statutes. More on the details of that in-depth analysis in my next post.

My current available options (personal stash) now include: four varieties for smoking, one beverage, a two-part tincture/cream topical product, a lollipop (lollipot?), several cookies and some hybrid hash. Starting next week, I will begin my clinical reports, observations and product reviews.
Brazilian Skunk

Art & Literature Through Our Ages

A truly great book should be read in youth, again in maturity and once more in old age, as a fine building should be seen by morning light, at noon and by moonlight.  --Robertson Davies

I'm going to tell a little story about art and then I want to ask you a question about books. Both of which flow from the idea expressed in the quote above. Simply put; we see, feel, sense, appreciate art and literature differently at the various stages of our life. We bring different experiences to the works and take away quite different lessons and visions.
In 1968 I was studying in Germany. I spent Easter weekend in Paris with some fellow American students. Late on Sunday afternoon we were to catch our train back to Muenster but I just had to see one more museum. The treasure of impressionist art, now residing in Musee d'Orsay, was in a different space back then and was my last stop in Paris. Fortunately, I took a friend with me because in the final room I visited were five of Monet's Cathedral Rouen paintings. He painted more than thirty of these works done at different times of day and year to catch the cathedral in different lights.
I was transfixed. To get me to leave, it took Steve actually stepping between me and the paintings, literally blocking my view and then moving me out of the room with his hands on my shoulders. We not only would have missed our train, I might still be standing there.
Some art is just that powerful. 

So to my question: What books have you or will you read in your youth, maturity and old age. I myself am not a big re-reader of books and have often times regretted taking up an old favorite that did not age well (or perhaps it is I who was showing the signs of age) but in any case. Which books do you return to?

My own list:
Lord of the Rings (3 times, every 12 years)
Catch-22 (3 times, but long ago)
Red Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars (2.5 times, reading now)
Burmese Supernaturalism (twice)
The Heart Sutra (five or more, but it's short and available in several translations)

You? The comment section is open.

Are We Alone in the Multi-Verse?

Current scientific estimates are that there are about 200 billion stars in the Milky Way, so that means there could be at least 400 billion drifting planets in space, add to that the planets that orbit stars and the smaller free-floaters we can't detect yet. Well that means somewhere out there are between 600 and 800 billion planets give or take. The number is subject to upward revisions.

So what exactly are the possibilities that we are the only rock in the Milky Way that has somehow managed to sustain life. Not to mention we are only talking about the Milky Way, our galaxy. So, we are just talking about the local neighborhood and not the entire universe or universes depending on your nomenclature. And we are talking life as we define it, you know carbon-based in need of oxygen and probably H2O. Other life forms based on different chemical processes, well...

The point being - the intelligent, thoughtful question is no longer "Are We Alone Out Here?" but rather, "When are they going to find us or us them?" Of course, science fiction has speculated for a long time that we have already been found and they are simply patiently waiting for us to grow up or blow ourselves up, in which case they may just start over with another seeding of the Earth and hope the next evolutionary cycle ends with the survival of a rational, intelligent species that will contribute to the cosmic empirical experience.

And it all started with a Big Bang - maybe.
the gummy big bang

A Modest Proposal for the U.S. Budget

There is not enough money to do everything everyone wants done. When we had enough money to do nearly everything everyone wanted done, we pissed it away on useless crap, foreign intervention, poorly organized educational reform, military toys and highways to nowhere. We were indeed on the road to nowhere. But that is the past, this is the reality of the present and to dig ourselves and the rest of the world out of this debt mess, we all will have to suffer. Suffering, in this case, for many, will mean not having all the stuff you never used anyway.

Here is my proposal for dealing with the budget problem as it exists today. Please note I am offering this within the context of the present two party system which I hate with a passion bordering on fervor. But we don't have the time to fix the political system and then deal with the budget. Priorities please.

This is a quantitative issue - we either spent less, raise more or some combination of both. Voodoo economics didn't work, neither did trickle down. The guiding principle shall be: Everybody Gives, Nobody Takes.

So, in order:

-Take all proposals that have been offered in Congress as of today, there will be no additions after today; that way no one gets to add anything to offset what they will lose under this proposal. Everyone has had plenty of time to make proposals. No new projects, period, end, done, stop.

-Everything is on the table, this includes Medicare, Social Security and the Department of Defense. It also includes: education, health care, foreign aid and whatever happens to be your pet project or program. Everything.

-First action: Both parties then get to throw out 10% in dollar value of the other guy's proposals. We call this the "are you insane!" rule. Yes, these cuts will be based solely on ideology, so get over it. Both sides get 10% and then you stop all the stupidity based solely on how you read the bible or the constitution or any other piece of moderately entertaining fiction.

-Next, cut the Republican cuts by 80% or if you prefer - restore $4 out of every $5 in cuts proposed by the Republican party. Now do the same to the Democrats cuts, yes they do propose cuts, they just hide them better. This will maintain an overall 20% cut in spending. Math wonks, take a seat.

-Cut all additional spending by 90%, even if they are being called "restored expenditures." It should be 100% but there actually are some new things that need being done.

-All tax cuts or tax break proposals will be taken off the table. Tax cuts currently in place will be rescinded, tax breaks will be rolled back over ten years. This does mean items like the oil depletion allowance. American business is supposed to be flexible and innovative, so prove it. Also the biggest tax break on the books, the home mortgage interest deduction must become part of the conversation.

-Each and every time anyone in the discussion refers to "they" or "them", as in: "they caused this problem" or "they don't want to pay their fair share", the person uttering the offending "they" will be fined five dollars which will go directly to state debt reduction. California should be fine in about two days.

-This budget is to be in effect for four years, subject to renewal under guidelines I will dream up as soon as they actually start implementing this proposal.

Next: Fixing those greedy bastards on Wall Street. First option - castration.
art from The Atlantic