Saturday, January 28, 2012

Syrup, Marijuana, Wizard Stalking, and Homeschooling

1. Ate the damper that Tim made.

It was really good.

Now we have the open can of golden syrup.  I hate for much of it to go to waste, so I'm thinking of things we can do with it.

Well, tonight I'll put it on my ice-cream.  We have some of the damper left, so we can also repeat the damper-golden syrup combination tomorrow. 

2. Wondered if perhaps I wasn't completely off my rocker when suggesting Reade Ainsworth could smoke pot as an alternative to taking prescribed psychiatric medication. 

I DID briefly read, in the past year or so, that there is a correlation between marijuana use and psychosis, when marijuana use is started at a young age.  I can't remember if there was proof of causation, or not.   But I do remember reading about the idea that the marijuana doesn't necessarily cause psychosis. But for people who are destined to become psychotic, it might bring on the symptoms earlier.  The stuff I read said this is a problem because people who develop psychosis at a later age have better outcomes.

I was wondering though about other mental issues like depression and anxiety. Can marijuana help?   Would it make things worse?

It turns out the opinionated experts out there have differing opinions. I jumped to a few websites.  This blog seems to summarize it pretty well.  The blogger has quotes from those who think smoking pot is a good thing for depressed people and those who think it's a bad idea.

The opinion I personally formed after reading the other opinions is that marijuana MIGHT be a valuable tool in treating depression but if taken in high doses, it can backfire and make things worse.

Can the same not be said for legal medications prescribed by doctors? I've heard they can be helpful.  I've also heard they can be sometimes unhelpful, and they can sometimes make things worse.  

3. Skimmed an article about the study linking marijuana and psychosis.  I don't think it talks about the importance of not getting psychotic episodes early in life, so maybe I dreamed that one up. OR maybe it's just not talked about in this particular article.  

I'm reading the article more carefully now.  It was an Australian study, actually—a meta-analysis type thing.  I'm not sure if that's the proper name.  But it's one of those studies where they look at other studies.  With this method, they looked at twenty thousand patients.  Out of those patients, the marijuana users had their first psychotic episode three years earlier than the non-marijuana users.

4. Saw I was wrong. This article does mention the don't-go-psychotic-too-early thing.  Someone from the study was quoted as saying:

An extra two or three years of psychosis-free functioning could allow many patients to achieve the important developmental milestones of late adolescence and early adulthood that could lower the long-term disability arising from psychotic disorders.

5. Continued to read the article. I think they're saying that there is no proof of causation. As we learn in our psych 101 classes, correlation does not equal causation.

Some folks believe that maybe the marijuana doesn't bring out the psychosis in young folks. They believe that maybe the early symptoms of psychosis leads young people to turn to drugs.  It's a chicken and egg thing, really.  

6. Started to feel passionate about medical marijuana.  Maybe that will be my new cause. I was pro before, but kind of in an apathetic way.

I think what changed me is seeing the characters do marijuana in the movie 50/50.  The guy with cancer reminded me a lot of myself.  He doesn't drink or smoke anything.  He doesn't do drugs.   (And he doesn't drive!)

But then he's with other patients and they offer him a macaroon with pot.  He says no at first, but then he takes it. It gives him a few moments of peace and happiness.  

Now I'm seeing from Lord Wiki that there may be many benefits to marijuana. I don't think I'd do it for the fun of it.  But if I got sick and felt there was good evidence that marijuana would make me feel better and/or help me live longer, I'd be mighty pissed off that my state government is denying me the right to use that form of treatment.

7. Found an old dream.  It's from April 18, 2008. It's not about Australia; but it reminds me of how I sometimes feel when blogging.   

Driving and feeling alienated. There are people around the place I'm I'm driving in a crowd of people. I feel they all are mad at me or dislike me. I might hit one slightly or I think I did on accident. There's this feeling of being embarrassed and ashamed.

Speaking of dreams, last night I had a lucid dream in which I reminded myself that I have a blog about Australia. I do that in my lucid dreams every so often—prove my strength of lucidity by reciting facts about my real life self.

I don't think I got very far with that this morning. After mentioning to myself that I have this blog, I think I became distracted.

8. Found a rather dark dream about Australia.

This one is from April 22, 2008.

We go to some park like place....maybe a playground. There are usually wallabies there; but this time there are also huge kangaroos. The kangaroos are aggressive and one attacks Jack.  It hurts Jack's nose. I kill the kangaroo with my bare hands.

9. Loved reading Fruitcake's story.  It's about women working in a factory.

Fruitcake is very talented.  I already knew she was good at writing nonfiction. Now I see she's equally great at fiction.

I love that you can find so many great writers on the internet.  

10. Went to Tallygarunga.

I started to read and write, but I feel bad about the rants and the controversies....and all that.   Even before the rant issue, I kind of felt like an intrusion.

It's probably all in my head.   I don't know.  Or maybe I just feel like a creepy lurker who's spying on a bunch of wizards and witches.

I don't know much about role-playing.  But I've come to think it's more about being part of a community and writing as a team.   I think it's less about weird outsiders coming in, reading, and them commenting...even though some of the Tally people were very sweet and welcoming towards me.   

I'm not sure about any of it,  really.   I think I'll just take a break for a week or so.   Then I'll decide if I feel like getting back to it.  If I don't get back to it, I probably will have to sneak in every so often to see what's happening.  Will Reade and Arti get back together? Will Améa and Arti become friends?

Whatever happened to Riley Lightfoot? I haven't seen him in awhile.

I miss chef James Young and his romance storyline.   

I'll have to see if The Exorcist couple ends up tying the knot. I wonder what sort of wedding gift Walter will give them.  

Will the Blair kids realize they have five more siblings out there somewhere?

And of course I'll want to see what's happening with Lee Evans and his newly found magical powers.

11. Saw that there's a threat of cyclones and bushfires in Western Australia, the central part—north of Perth and south of Broome.

I hope everything turns out okay—no extensive damage or loss of life.  

12. Read article about the floods in New South Wales.

The weather is rough on Australia during the summer months.  

13. Wondered if golden syrup needs to be refrigerated.  I put it in yesterday, but it's slow moving enough without refrigeration. I took it out.   I'm hoping it will be okay.

14. Read this website.  One guy says the golden syrup should be refrigerated after opening, but the others seem to think it's fine not too.

I'm thinking of other stuff we don't refrigerate and it ends up okay:  Nutella, imitation breakfast syrup, honey, corn syrup.....

We do refrigerate our Hershey syrups, the type you put in milk.   I'm not sure if it's really necessary or not. 

15. Read a sweet little supernatural story in Isabelle the Navigator.  It's open-ended, which I like.   The character, hearing the story from her new friend, is skeptical and doesn't know if she's being told the truth or not.   The one telling the story doesn't know if it was all her imagination, and whether or not the amazing coincidence she experienced, was a miracle or a clever lie.  

The outcome of the story reminds me of something that has happened to me.

In the story, two people have this strong spiritual connection.  It's like they're brought together by fate. They become friends, but in the end it doesn't work out.    

I do feel pushed by destiny to have certain people in my lives.  Then when we drift apart, I wonder what was the point of all that?

Maybe I mistook coincidence for destiny.

Or maybe we were meant to play only temporary parts in each other's lives.

It could also be that our friendship isn't truly over.  Perhaps it's only on hiatus. That happens sometimes.  

16. Saw that I have brothers for my Australian of the day.  And I see that I'm done with Armstrong people.

Now I have Charles Henry and Frederick William Armytage

And for the next post I'll be writing about their dad, George Armytage.

17. Saw that Charles Henry was the elder brother.  He was born in 1824.  Frederick William was born fourteen years later.   Wow.  That's a big space there.

Charles was the fourth son and Frederick was the sixth son.  So there was one kid born in-between that time.

18. Learned that Charles was born in Bagdad Tasmania, which was Van Diemen's Land.

His dad gave him property.  He became a grazier.

He ended up in Victoria.

He owned lots of land, including Como. That sounds familiar to me.  Maybe it's talked about in the Australian architecture book I have.

19. Found a website about Como.    It's part of the National Trust of Victoria. 

20. Looked at my architecture book.   There's a whole chapter on Como.   It's in Melbourne.   I'm sure Andrew has mentioned it then. That's probably the main reason why it's familiar to me.  

21. Found Como on Google Maps.   It's in South Yarra.  I think Andrew maybe lives around that area.  I can't quite usual.  

22. Consulted Lord Wiki to see if the Armytage family played a big part in Como's history. He says the house does have a long association with that family.

23. Learned that Charles Armytage was involved with turning Eucalyptus oil into a healing product.

24. Learned that Frederick Armytage ended up owning property too.

And he played cricket.

25. Glanced at a marijuana study from the University of Southern California.

A lot of it goes over my head. It's been a LONG time since I've taken statistics.

The study looked at nine thousand people.  They divided the participants into daily users, weekly users, less than weekly users, and people who have never used.

I could be wrong though.  It's confusing to me.

26. Saw that the study looked at four factors regarding depression; depressed affect, positive affect, somatic activity, and interpersonal symptoms.   I'm not entirely sure what those refer to.  

27. Decided to just skip down to the conclusion/discussion bit.

They say basically those who use marijuana, either regularly or occasionally, have less depressive symptoms than people who have never used. 

Okay, but here's my argument...which probably has no merit. One of the main reasons I don't like the idea of drinking or smoking pot is the worry of loss of control.   I worry I'll go completely silly and embarrass myself, which is ridiculous since, without drugs, I'm very silly and often embarrass myself.

I was embarrassed for the guy who got high in 50/50, even though I was amused by him and also kind of happy that he was happy.

But what I'm wondering is maybe it's not about the drugs reducing depression. Maybe people like me choose not to use drugs because of something in our personality.  Maybe we're too uptight.  Maybe we cling too desperately to control. And maybe people who are uptight and cling too desperately to control are more likely to be depressed.  

I'm probably wrong.  There probably IS something in the drug that reduces depression. I'm just trying to provide an alternative angle.

28. Chuckled a bit at this part of the conclusion.

This study was also the first to our knowledge to separately investigate depression in medical marijuana users relative to recreational users. Medical users reported more depressed mood and more somatic complaints than recreational users, but reported less negative affect and fewer somatic complaints (among women) than those who had never used marijuana.

Sometimes I wonder about the people doing these studies.

Wouldn't it be kind of expected that people, with a medical condition would be less happy than those who are just using marijuana for the fun of it?

I don't think these are minor medical my currently dodgy toenail.   I think these people, using medical marijuana, have some major shit going on in their bodies.   I imagine it's hard for them to be happy.   It's nice, though, that the marijuana seems to be making them happier.   I'm confused about the last line I quoted above.   Are they saying people taking medical marijuana are less depressed than sick people not taking it, or are they going so far to say that they're even happier than healthy people not doing marijuana.   If the latter is the case; we need to ALL be smoking pot.   They should just put it in the water.

Don't worry.  I'm joking. Sort of.

29. Decided it would be good to look at the opposite end of the argument.  I found a study done in 2001 by the American Journal of Psychiatry.  

The study was a longitudinal one.  They looked at 1,920 people in 1980; then followed up with them in 1994 and 1996.   They looked at people who were not depressed in 1980 and started using drugs after that point. The scientists found that they were four times more likely to be depressed than the people who did not use marijuana after the initial examination.

It sounds like the opposite results of the other study.

In this study they talk about the whole chicken and egg thing. Does the marijuana cause depression, or are depressed people more likely to turn to marijuana?

This is the opposite of what I was saying a few paragraphs above. 

Maybe there's two types of people with mental issues—those who turn to mind-altering drugs and those who fear them.

30.  Had some ideas after looking at both of these studies, about why there are such conflicting reports and conclusions, although that seems to be fairly typical of science.   That's why I turn to the supernatural.

Anyway, my first idea is that maybe marijuana works differently with different brains.  In some people it causes depression.  In other people it reduces depression.   I guess by coincidence one study ended up with more of one type of person and the other study ended up with the other type.

That seems a bit far-fetched.

Then again, why are there so many different drugs for depression? Obviously one size/type doesn't fit all.  

My other thought goes back to what I was reading last night.   I'm wondering if marijuana used for short periods can reduce depression, but for those who use it for a long time, maybe it increases depression.

I don't know, though.  I didn't read, in either study, about the length of time people used. Those in the longitudinal study might have used it once or twice between 1980 and the mid 1990's.  How long did users use in the University of South California study?

31. Thought maybe marijuana is like chocolate. It has health benefits if you eat it in small doses. If you eat a ton of it, then you're likely to become overweight and unhealthy.

I guess a lot of things are like that.

Some things are pretty bad in all doses.

Some things are almost always good, even in moderately large doses.

Then other stuff is good in small doses but bad in large doses.

32. Thought of seaweed.   That's another good example.   In small doses, it's good for your thyroid.   It can prevent hypothyroidism.  In large doses, it can wreak havoc on your thyroid.

33. Thought about how I'm thankful to Reade Ainsworth because he inspired me to learn all of this.   I hope he ends up being okay, whether he stays on the anti-depressants or not.   

I know he's fictional.  Yeah. But in my heart, he's real. He's a nice kid...minus his snootiness with the waiter that one time.

34. Learned from Tim that the protesters burned the Australian flag. I think he was all proud of himself for knowing something Australian before I did.   And I felt ashamed for not keeping up with the news.

I've been reading the news less lately.

I guess I'm just annoyed by it.

I do learn about some current events from Stephen Colbert, and we're all into the GOP primaries...especially Jack.

I have Australia news on my iGoogle.  I have the ABC widget and a Sydney Morning Herald widget.  I see the headlines.  A lot of them are teasers and I have no idea what the story is.   Every so often, I'll be curious enough to check.

I used to read Google News Australia. I'd look at the Australia section, the Entertainment section, and the health section.

I don't know. I just got sick of it.

35. Enjoyed the Paris snow scene in Isabelle the Navigator.   It's fun seeing snow through the eyes of someone who's never experienced it before.   It really can be least when it first starts falling.

I would think Jack's love for snow snow would be less than most other kids.  I kind of thought that 75% of kid snow-love is missing school.  Jack misses school every day.   But it turns out he loves snow.

I hope it snows this year.  Last year we had a lot of snow, much more than Fort Worth usually gets.   So I'm thinking we might not get much this year.   Or maybe I'm wrong.   Maybe last year started a new trend and we'll be getting a good amount of snow every year.  

36. Decided I'll try to be better about clicking on the iGoogle headlines. I think my other problem is I've gotten it into my head that if I read an article, I'm obligated to write about it. That's silly and irrational.

I need to remind myself that I don't need to write anything unless I feel inspired to write.

37. Read article about Julia Gillard's staff person leaking information that helped the protesters find Gillard and Abbott at their dinner.

The first thing I thought of when I read that was Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.  There was that whole thing about relocating Potter, and the worry about leaks and spies.  

Now that I think of it, secret-keeping plays a pretty big part in Harry Potter.   There are various incidents where someone's life is dependent on someone keeping a secret.

38. Thought it was fortunate that the Julia Gillard staffer sent protesters to the restaurant, and not Voldemort.

39.  Learned that the scary Western Australia storm is named Iggy.

It reminds me of that Judy Blume book.  

I hope Iggy treats Western Australia gently.

40.  Saw there's a new movie coming out with Josh Lawson.  It's called Any Questions For Ben? 

An Aussie actress named Rachael Taylor is in the movie. She seemed vaguely familiar to me.

I looked and saw she was on Grey's Anatomy.  

She was also on the recent TV show Charlie's Angels.  I didn't know about that show until a few days ago, but it looks like it already ended.  

41. Watched a trailer for Any Questions For Ben?

It doesn't really look that intriguing to me, but Josh Lawson is kind of adorable.   He'd be a great Tallygarunga face claim person, if any of the role-players became interested in using Australian people.

I was excited to see the guy from Offspring.  What's his name again?

42. Found the guy.  His name is Lachy Hulme.  He plays Dr. Martin Clegg on Offspring.

43. Wondered why I keep searching for Julian McMahon in my lucid dreams. This has been going on for seven years now. That's CRAZY.  

Will it ever end?

44. Decided it will end eventually.  Obviously.

Everything ends.

45. Watched a little of The Daily Show with Tim and Jack.  Tim is a fan of the show. Jack and I have been somewhat reluctant to jump on board the fandom.

I can't say I loved it. There were a few funny parts. But I prefer Colbert.

Anyway, though, John Stewart mentioned two Australia related thing—Rick Springfield and Oprah's Australia trip.

46. Thought that Luke Davies was quite least in the picture on the back of the Isabelle book.  He looks like some actor.   Maybe Clive Owen?

47. Finished reading the Isabelle book.

I thought it was really good.  I'm not sure I liked the ending though.  Davies took the same route as JK Rowling and provided an epilogue. I liked the JK Rowling one until I saw the movie.

As for Isabelle; I had a hard time letting go of the fact that the protagonist is a female and the author is a male.  Some writers are very good at putting themselves in the other gender's shoes.  I don't think Davies is horrible at it. There were many times that I felt I was reading about a real woman.   Other times I felt like I was reading about a man's fantasy of a woman.

Isabelle has a strong libido. She's heterosexual, but has a passionate affair with a woman.  Her favorite movie is Star Wars.  Isn't that like the typical man's fantasy woman?

It's fair, though.  Novels by women often have men who represent the typical woman's fantasy.

48. Worried for Western Australia.

I hope everything will be okay. 

49. Saw that there's flooding issues in Queensland.  

I hope they'll be okay too.

50. Went to bed and had some dreams.   In one, I go to a blog and the blogger has a picture using this special device.  You can look at the picture and feel like you're really there.    The picture takes up the whole room.   I stand on something (like a couch) and feel like I'm looking down at the scene.  The only thing is, I can still see our own carpet in the scene. I plan to write about the picture on my blog.   
Last night I googled "Armchair traveling" and glanced at a few sites. So I think that's what inspired that dream.

51. Read article about homeschooling in Australia.   It says many parents are choosing the illegal route.  This means they're doing underground homeschooling.  They're not registering their kids.

In both Australia and America, homeschooling laws vary by state.   Some states have very strict standards.  Families are on a very tight leash.  Other states give families a lot of freedom.

Texas is very easy.   There's no testing or reporting.  I like that. It's one of the few things about Texas that I love.

When I was looking into us moving to Australia, I read about the homeschooling laws. From what I remember, Victoria families have the most homeschooling freedom.   Other state's laws are a bit more complicated and tedious.   

52. Annoyed by a man quoted in the article.  A sociologist Stanford University says, I know plenty of home-schoolers who would still home school even if they had an exceptional public school right next door to them.   

Why don't I just turn that quote around and say, I know parents who send their kids to school even though their kids have a beautiful home and parents perfectly capable of teaching them.  

The other thing is, how do you define exceptional public school?  My definition might not be the same as his definition.

My dream public school?   It would have low teacher to student ratios, probably one teacher for every 8-10 kids.   The classroom would be full of books, computers, science materials, toys, art supplies, building materials, etc.  There'd be no assignments.   The kids would take the materials and learn what they want to learn.   They'd choose whether they want to work alone or with other students.    A student could spend weeks working on one project if he desired. Other students may work on several different things in one hour.

That's MY dream school.  To other people, that would be a horrible school.   Other people's definition of exceptional school might be a school in which the average standardized test scores are very high.

53. Thought about the final part of the article.  Hanne Worsoe, the manager of the Queensland Home Education Unit says, That's why we live in a civil society that provides that capacity to represent children and to monitor their educational needs. If people aren't registered I'd say you're breaking the law, and if you're doing the right thing by your kids you've got nothing to hide.  

That makes sense on some level.   It depends though on how rigidly we define doing right by our kids.  If we define it as not starving them, not trading them for drugs, not raping them, not beating them, etc....then I think yeah, that makes sense.

If we define it as the kids must be learning this at this exact age and they should spend this amount of time each month on this and this; then I think that's too rigid.   Not everyone fits into such a tight mold.

I think what Hanne Worsoe needs to do is make parents feel safe enough to come out from the homeschooling closet.  Show these parents that the government is welcoming and accepting of various educational philosophies and choices.

Right now I get the sense that there's a lot of antagonism between the parents and the educational authorities.    I think they should work towards building a cooperative and accepting relationship.    That type of relationship is not built by saying, You'd come forward if you had nothing to hide.   That's what we say to people when we suspect they DO have something to hide and we want to make them nervous.  

54. Went to look at more of Fredweng's day Twenty in Australia Flickr set.  

55. Liked this photo of Kata Tjuta. 

I'm wondering how that's pronounced. Is the t silent or the j?  Or do you somehow say both letters?

56. Liked looking at the various cute camel photos. Here's one example.  

In most of the photos though, it looks like the camels are smiling.  I wonder if that's an anthropomorphic illusion, or are they really smiley animals?

57.  Thought that this camel doesn't seem to be smiling.  What the hell are they doing to his nose?   It looks mean.  

58. Found a website about camel halters and nose pegs.  They're used to control the camel.  Why?

It seems strange to me; and painful.   But I'm ignorant about the subject.   The person who made the website DOES seem to care about camel welfare.  They talk about dos and don'ts  in terms of camel care.   They warm about practices that are likely to cause injury.

59. Read this editorial about nose pegs.  Charmain Wright is in support of using the pegs, but his argument didn't convince me.

There's less about the welfare of the animals; and much more about controlling the animals.   Wright says:

Granted, there are individual variations between animals and training techniques. Some of my animals did very well without nose lines. But when my camels are working with the public, I feel that public safety overshadows all other prejudices or ethical considerations. The bottom line is that, regardless of type of training, nose pegs afford a greater degree of control than any other type of headgear.

My gut feeling is that if such strong control is needed to keep the public safe from an animal, maybe they shouldn't be used as an attraction.  Or at least not an interactive attraction.

Wright does say later that the nose pegs cause very little discomfort. That's comforting...sort of.   But how do you define minimal discomfort?

60. Though that this woman looks a bit like Tracy Pollan; but less so in this photo

61. Saw that Fredweng had rice, for a change, instead of noodles.  

Well, no. I'm wrong.

He had noodles too.  

62. Went to Funtrivia to take another Australia quiz.

The one I'm taking today is another national parks one.  

Maybe I'll do okay on it.

63. Decided I probably won't do okay on it.  I answered the first question wrong.   I don't blame myself.  I blame the quiz.   It reminds me of that Oprah Australia quiz.  It's about memorizing numbers and obscure trivia.

So, now I know that national parks in Australia cover 25.7 million hectares. Personally, I don't really care.

64. Got question #7 wrong and saw that Wilpena Pound is in Flinders Ranges National Park.   I thought that's what I put.  Or maybe I answered Flinders Chase National Park.

I knew it was Flinders something, not really because I'm highly knowledgeable about Wilpena Pound.  But the question said it was in South Australia.   I knew Flinders-whatever-park is in South Australia.

65.  Finished the quiz.   Besides the first question, I thought the quiz was reasonable.

I got 8/10.

66. Wondered why I think it's reasonable to memorize names of things, but not reasonable to be expected to memorize number facts.

I don't know.....