There was a K-9 unit on the train. The officer looked like Lou Diamond Phillips but I didn't want to be creepy and push my luck.


Sitting here at 4:00 pm on a Sunday afternoon; it's raining and getting dark outside.

Had a great weekend! Yesterday, I headed out into the world at about 11:00 am. Walked down 145th to the ACBD train station (picked up a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich at 145th and Amsterdam?). I love my neighborhood. Was at Harlem 125th Metro North within 45 minutes. Well within the amount of time. Read my counseling textbook all the way to Brewster--the chapter on Existential Psychology.

Lr picked me up at the Station and we headed to Niantic, CT, which is near the ocean. It was about a two-hour drive but I'd made some xmas cds for us to listen to. Those went over well. We stopped at an outdoor bookstore called the Book Barn that had free coffee and donuts. I only bought one book (I was overwhelmed) but she bought several books.

Then, we went to her friends house. It was like Martha Stewart. Very homey but lovely presentation. We stuffed ourselves on the cooking; the Paula Dean corn pudding was my favorite with many of the pastries close seconds. Everything was homemade so I felt no guilt. What a treat! When do I get home cooking like that?

Lr was smoking cigarettes outside (she's a bad girl). Smoking cigarettes with Lr outside has always been one of life's pleasures so I had a camel light--with the filter ripped in half like I used to. I can't remember the last time I had a cigarette. Must have been last year when I bought that pack during grad school and smoked them out my window. This was more pleasurable. It gave me quite a kick and buzz. I had to lean up against the house because there was no where to sit. It was cold and rainy out.

I spent the night on the couch and this morning she made scrambled eggs with cheddar bacon muffins. What a delicious breakfast. I'm still not all that hungry. I kind of wanted to hit the road, though. She drove me home and they continued on to the East Village to visit the Puerto Rican trading company. I used to buy beans from there YEARS ago when I lived on Allen Street. I could get a pound of coffee for about $4.99 or $5. Those days are long gone. So it goes.

I showered and logged into the computer. I'm still not all that hungry. I need to go to the grocery store and buy lunch meat for my lunch tomorrow. I thought I maybe should cook or something, but I'm so lazy and may just do Taco Bell for dinner. I have stuff around here so could also just do vegetables and rice with beans. I don't want to prepare a thing.

I don't like the cards I bought this past year. So it goes.


It's Saturday morning; I've gotten a lot accomplished. No running today. Who knows if that may have been contributing to the insanity the past couple years. Maybe I need to go back to running.

Yesterday, P and I were alone in the office. She asked me about Chandi foods up on 29th street--where I go for lunch and love. She said she wanted some Indian comfort food. At 2:00 pm, we put on our coats. She asked, "Should we shut the office door?" We shut--and locked--the door. We had no key. We shrugged our shoulders and went to lunch.

She's vegetarian and I ordered what she ordered. We sat and talked.

We walked back to the office and P got the key from the 11th floor and we got back to work. Boyfriend headed off to Italy yesterday. I got a couple emails from him.

Came home and read about Adler on the subway. I should have gotten up and read more of the textbook but I did not. I sent out my recommendation forms this morning and got that off my plate. What a relief. This may all be over for now--to start up the madness next fall. I'll have to put that in God's hands.

I read something that journaling is just rumination. It just reinforces the madness. I know that's true. Distraction is key.


Last night was the first night in four nights I spent at home. I went to bed and it was roasting but it cooled off; I guess super turned off the heat. It's quite pleasant right now with the heat off. It's warm out because it's rainy weather. I have the feeling the temperature will plummet some time during today.

Things are shaping up with me. I started the application process for the program.

Had a good and long weekend. On Friday night, I went to Jersey and we ate at the Blue Moon restaurant. We then went back to Gvnni's to watch and episode or two of The Event. I'm not that crazy about the series, but Gvnni likes it. On Saturday, we came back into the city so that he could do the training and I could run a ton of little errands.

When he got back from training, we went to the Subway for a sandwich and shared it at my little table for two. Then, we headed back into Jersey where we watched more episodes of The Event and Gvnni ended up watching all five episodes; he didn't have any episodes to watch on Sunday night. On Saturday night, we went to the Indian restaurant again. It has fantastic food, but the service is a little odd. The first time we went, we were ignored and had to beg for menus. This time, our food came with no spoons of any kind (and a lot of drippy gravies and curries).

On Sunday, we drove into the city again to attend the New York Public Library open house. We shared a Subway sandwich ahead of time, which turned out to be pointless. When we got there, the affair was heavily catered and there was too much food. We met my friend in line and she had brought her camera. She says she brings it everywhere. Gvnni had a good time; he loved the food and enjoyed looking at the building and the paintings.

When we left, we walked through the Bryant Park Christmas fair. Then, we walked up Fifth Avenue to the Abercrombie and Fitch store (which is a hell mouth). He wanted to buy some clothes for his niece. The shopping bag had a naked male torso on it so I offered to carry the bag for him. When we got to Columbus Circle, he wanted to stop at Grom--the gelato place. Typically, he doesn't stop for sweets and we'd been eating all afternoon. He'd had a couple of glasses of wine to boot. No worries! I enjoyed.

I like talking about myself with people who love and care about me; I hate having to do small talk about myself in social situations. I just don't care about talking about my career (photoretouching) and school (which is a major stresser).

When I got back into the city, Gvnni texted me that he wasn't going to training and did I want to hang out! I said I wasn't going to Jersey, but he could come into the city and we could go to Dinosaur BBQ at 9:00 pm. He picked me up and had a great meal.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
February 2012

The National Institute on Alcohol and Alcoholism (NIAAA), a division of the United States Department of Heath and Human Services, defines Alcoholism as a disease that has four symptoms: a strong craving for alcohol, a loss of control over drinking alcohol once drinking has begun, a physical dependence on alcohol that can result in physical withdrawal symptoms if drinking is stopped, and an increased tolerance of alcohol so that more and more is required to receive the same effect.

In the United States, about 1 in every 12 people abuse or are dependent on Alcohol.  On average, men more than women tend to be alcoholic and rates are highest between the ages of 18-29.

Alcoholism is considered a chronic disease in that it can’t be cured and it lasts a lifetime. Treatments programs include detoxification and counseling centers, medication, and self-help programs. There are some medications that are used to treat dependence or withdrawal symptoms.

The longer someone abstains from alcohol, the likelier the alcoholic will avoid relapse and stay sober. While some people can cut back on their drinking and drink moderately (two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women), for recovering alcoholics NIAAA recommends complete abstinence from alcohol as the safest course.

For more information, the NIAAA suggests The National Drug and Alcohol Treatment Referral Routing Service toll-free number (1-800-662-HELP) and also a link to Alcoholics Anonymous.



Lab rat

One lab rat pressed a lever 6400 times to get one dose of coke!
On the flip side, rats don't like LSD or Prozac.

Gerard Depardieu 'sorry' to have urinated on plane carpet - Telegraph

Gerard Depardieu 'sorry' to have urinated on plane carpet

Gerard Depardieu's entourage has said he tried to urinate into a bottle "as discreetly as possible" while on a flight, and said he was "sorry" to have spilt some on the plane's carpet.

Our Favorite Novels -

Well, hello again. After digesting your additions to, and critiques
of, our nonfiction list, we decided to reconvene our panel of
nonexperts (ourselves) and come right back at you with a list of the
best fiction of all time. Using our customary precise, scientific
approach, we asked each member of the staff to pick their five
favorites. The full list is after the jump.
And the winner is … "Lolita"! Before bestowing this glorious honor, we
went through an exhaustive series of bonus rounds. First, we asked
everyone to vote again, this time for one book that a colleague cited
but they had not. The second round helped "The Amazing Adventures of
Kavalier & Clay" gain ground on "Lolita," which had been an early
leader. A dark horse, "The Great Gatsby" pulled out from the pack and
gained on the front-runners. Coetzee's "Disgrace" made a late surge.
"Anna Karenina" fell back.
What to do? A bonus-bonus round, of course, pitting Vladimir Nabokov
against Michael Chabon. It was a thrilling last leg of the race. Sweat
beaded on the brows of editors as they e-mailed in their votes. Sam
Anderson declared that as the magazine's critic at large, he had the
right to break the tie all by himself. From one photo editor came this
primal howl: "L-O-L-I-T-A!!!!!!!" In the end, "Lolita" won by seven
votes. (Sam approves.)
The biggest lesson learned from this exercise are that we have some
high-falutin' readers in this office. Tenth-grade English teachers all
over the country can congratulate themselves on a job well done. I was
personally distressed that nobody saw fit to join me in endorsing "The
Godfather." Also, I'm sorry, but "White Noise" is overrated — a great
novelist cracking grad-student one-liners. I'll take "Libra" any day.
Just my opinion.
Another lesson: Having fancy literary taste does not predispose one to
abide by rules. Yes, we had a rash of folks who broke the five-book
limit, including one nonconformist who tried to pass off "all P.G.
Wodehouse" as one book (ahem, Mr. Bittman.) There was also all kinds
of complaining about the reductiveness of lists, how impossible it is
to pick favorites, etc. What is it about books that make people so
Below is the full list, with the five-book groupings of each staff
member intact. Check back in next week, when we'll write about which
books people are planning to read this summer. As always, please write
in with your own suggestions.
"The Awakening," by Kate Chopin
"The Passion," by Jeanette Winterson
"The Great Gatsby," F. Scott Fitzgerald
"To Kill a Mockingbird," by Harper Lee
"A Visit From the Goon Squad," by Jennifer Egan
"Crime and Punishment," by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
"At Swim-Two-Birds," by Flann O'Brien
"Infinite Jest," by David Foster Wallace
"Ulysses," by James Joyce
"Molloy," by Samuel Beckett
"Lolita," by Vladimir Nabokov
"Rabbit, Run," or anything by John Updike
"American Pastoral," or anything by Philip Roth
"The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay," by Michael Chabon
"Middlesex," by Jeffrey Eugenides
"For Whom The Bell Tolls," by Ernest Hemingway
"The Mezzanine," by Nicholson Baker
"The House of Mirth," by Edith Wharton
"The Great Gatsby," by F. Scott Fitzgerald
"The Master of Go," by Yasunari Kawabata
"The Golden Bowl," by Henry James
"In Search of Lost Time," by Marcel Proust
"The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis," by José Saramago
"The Savage Detectives," by Roberto Bolaño
"Light Years," by James Salter
"Green Wheat," by Colette
"To Kill a Mockingbird," by Harper Lee
"The Sound and the Fury," by William Faulkner
"Neverwhere," by Neil Gaiman
"The Turn of the Screw," by Henry James
"All the King's Men," by Robert Penn Warren
"Snow Country," by Yasunari Kawabata
"Plainsong," by Kent Haruf
"Eventide," by Kent Haruf
"The Sportswriter," by Richard Ford
"Sense and Sensibility," by Jane Austen
"The God of Small Things," by Arundhati Roy
"Cathedral," Raymond Carver
"Pride and Prejudice," by Jane Austen
"Anna Karenina," by Leo Tolstoy
"The Great Gatsby," by F. Scott Fitzgerald
"The Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, by Michael Chabon
"Jane Eyre," by Charlotte Brontë
"The Shipping News," by Annie Proulx
"Underworld," by Don DeLillo
"The Unbearable Lightness of Being," by Milan Kundera
"White Noise," by Don DeLillo
"Mating," by Norman Rush
"Another Marvelous Thing," by Laurie Colwin
"American Pastoral," by Philip Roth
"A Sport and a Pastime," by James Salter
"V.," by Thomas Pynchon
"Cat and Mouse," by Gunter Grass
"The Floating Opera," by John Barth
"The Blood Oranges," by John Hawkes
"A Confederacy of Dunces," by John Kennedy Toole
"Passage to India," by E.M. Forster
"Wolf Hall," by Hilarty Mantel
"Atonement," by Ian McEwan
"The Tin Drum," by Gunter Grass
"White Teeth," by Zadie Smith
"The Unbearable Lightness of Being," by Milan Kundera
"Middlesex," by Jeffrey Eugenides
"To The Lighthouse," by Virginia Woolf
"Lolita," by Vladimir Nabokov
"Moby-Dick," by Herman Melville
"Pale Fire," by Vladimir Nabokov
"Lolita," by Vladimir Nabokov
"Dead Souls," by Nikolai Gogol
"A Confederacy of Dunces," John Kennedy Toole
"The Power and the Glory," by Graham Greene
"The Age of Innocence," by Edith Wharton
"The Heart is a Lonely Hunter," by Carson McCullers
"Brideshead Revisited," by Evelyn Waugh
"The Leopard," by Giuseppe di Lampedusa
"Crime and Punishment," by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
"The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay," by Michael Chabon
"Leviathan," by Paul Auster
"My Name Is Asher Lev," by Chaim Potok
"The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time," by Mark Haddon
"Cloud Atlas," by David Mitchell
"The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay," by Michael Chabon
"The Executioner's Song," by Norman Mailer
"London Fields," by Martin Amis
"Disgrace," by J.M. Coetzee
"Invisible Man," by Ralph Ellison
"Moby-Dick," by Herman Melville
"The Catcher in the Rye," by J.D. Salinger
"Jaws," by Peter Benchley
"1984," by George Orwell
"Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman," by Haruki Murakami
"Remains of the Day," by Kazuo Ishiguro
"Against Nature," by Joris-Karl Huysmans
"The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay," by Michael Chabon
"Lolita," by Vladimir Nabokov
"Disgrace," by J.M. Coetzee
"Birdsong," by Sebastian Faulks
"CivilWarLand in Bad Decline," by George Saunders
"Anna Karenina," by Leo Tolstoy
"American Pastoral," by Philip Roth
Also: "James & the Giant Peach," by Roald Dahl
"Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man," by James Joyce
"A Personal Matter," by Kenzaburo Oe
"To the Lighthouse," by Virginia Woolf
"Invisible Man," by Ralph Ellison
"Sirens of Titan," by Kurt Vonnegut
"The Godfather," by Mario Puzo
"The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay," by Michael Chabon
"The Thin Man," by Dashiell Hammett
"The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop.," by
Robert Coover
"Bright Lights, Big City," by Jay McInerney
"A Confederacy of Dunces," by John Kennedy Toole
"Catch-22," by Joseph Heller
"The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," by Mark Twain
"Infinite Jest," by David Foster Wallace
"Lolita," by Vladimir Nabokov
"Middlemarch," by George Eliot
"Persuasion," by Jane Austen
"Lolita," by Vladimir Nabokov
"The House of Mirth," by Edith Wharton
"Franny and Zooey," by J.D. Salinger
"Cruddy," by Lynda Barry
"Chelsea Girls," by Eileen Myles
"House of Leaves," by Mark Z. Danielewski
"The Rules of Attraction," by Bret Easton Ellis
"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," by Douglas Adams (God, I'm such a nerd)
"Pride and Prejudice," by Jane Austen
"Pere Goriot," by Honore de Balzac
"We All Love Glenda So Much and Other Tales," by Julio Cortazar
"Middlemarch," by George Eliot
"White Mule," by William Carlos Williams
Right now I am reading, in honor of the capture of Whitey Bulger, "The
Friends of Eddie Coyle by George V.Higgins, a fantastic crime novel
set in Boston, composed almost entirely in dialogue.
"Infinite Jest," by David Foster Wallace
"The Golden Notebook," by Doris Lessing
"Catch-22," by Joseph Heller
All P.G. Wodehouse
"Alexandria Quartet," by Lawrence Durrell
"Baron in the Trees," by Italo Calvino
"Atlas Shrugged," by Ayn Rand
"Dance, Dance, Dance," by Haruki Murakami
"A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court," by Mark Twain
"Strange Pilgrims," by Gabriel García Márquez
This Summer: "Don Quixote" by Miguel De Cervantes
"The Catcher in the Rye," by J.D. Salinger
"A Prayer for Owen Meany," by John Irving
"Pride and Prejudice," by Jane Austen
"To Kill a Mocking Bird," by Harper Lee
"My Antonia," by Willa Cather
"The Sportswriter," by Richard Ford
"Independence Day," by Richard Ford
"All the King's Men," by Robert Penn Warren
"The Moviegoer," by Walker Percy
"Slaughterhouse Five," by Kurt Vonnegut
"Lolita," by Vladimir Nabokov
"Anna Karenina," by Leo Tolstoy
"The Sound and the Fury," by William Faulkner
"The Great Gatsby," by F. Scott Fitzgerald
"Ada, or Ardor: A Family Chronicle," by Vladimir Nabokov
"The Needle's Eye," by Margaret Drabble
"The Master," by Colm Toibin
"Middlearch," by George Eliot.
"The Ambassadors," by Henry James
"The History of Love," by Nicole Krauss
"Anna Karenina," by Leo Tolstoy

The Rite

Watching the Rite with Sir Anthony Hopkins is like eating beef Wellington at McDonald's.



People have an attentional bottle neck and limited cognitive resources. In a perfect world, we would notice every stimulus, process it, and catalog (remember) it accordingly. Unfortunately, we often just don't have the time to give things as much thought as they require. The upside is a lot of what happens in life doesn't need that much attention. We can get away with easy and rote answers and solutions to similar problems we've had numerous times before.

There are two ways of measuring memory: recall and recognition. Recognition is a two-level process.

Recognition: The first level is always quick and easy. We rely on a heuristic to decide and pass judgment on what we should proceed. This can be the availability heuristic (we sample what is recent, prototypical and emotionally charged). We look at an object and ask: Is this familiar? We can get a quick, gut reaction from it. If it's not familiar, we don't recognize it. Or, it may have a sense of "familiarity" which can lead to false recognitions. A ticket taker points to a man he thinks robbed him because the man looks familiar: turns out the man is just a soldier who has bought tickets from him in the past.

The problem with recognition system one is when nothing looks "familiar." While taking a multiple choice test, if all the multiple choice answers seem good, then one must have to go to the second level of processing. This is slow, methodical recall.

Recall is better if something is over learned and has many connections/memories attached to it. It's easier to re-learn something the second time. If the connections are there, one is not starting from scratch.

In the feature model concepts have a list of features: defining features (features an object must have to belong to the category) and characteristic features (features an object could have but are not defining). The theory is it's easier to put something in a category if it contains all the features of what we view as the defining feature of the category. For example, we compare a ROBIN that has feathers, a beak and two legs with what we know of typical BIRD which is it has feathers, a beak, and two legs. The defining, essential, characteristics are feathers and a beak. The characteristic features (non-essential) are two legs.

In order to come up with a sentence "Is a robin a bird?" we scan two sets of features and look for overlap. It's a stage 1 process that's quick and parallel. It generates a fast answer. If you're faced with an intermediate object that doesn't have defining characteristics, you have to kick into system 2: slow, serial processing. "Is a penguin a bird?" should be a slower yes. A robin has many of the defining features of what we determine a bird should have; a penguin does not.

There is a dual code theory of imagery. The theory was divined to explain the phenomenon that concrete words (eg flag) are easier learned than abstract words (eg democracy). When people imagine "democracy" they imagine a flag. Concrete words have the cognitive advantage over abstract words because
  • Concrete words are represented both in language systems and in the image system" i.e. "brick"
  • Abstract words are only represented in the language system (i.e. love/hate). They're difficult to define but they're communicable.

Abstract words are words we use because of context and not because we memorize the definition. In brain damage, we're more likely to retain concrete words than abstract words. Concrete words are learned younger at a basic level. If we pair memories with words and words with memories, this will help us with memory retrieval in the future—we have two paths to get to the same concept.

There are two subsystems of human cognitive processing that work simultaneously: one dealing with verbal objects—linguistic information--and one dealing with visual stimuli—images and pictures. Although they're processed independently, they're connected in memory. For example, when one watches a nature program on television that's narrated. we can look and process the pictures while we're hearing and processing the words. These are happening simultaneously and don't interfere with one another; in fact, they help future memory retrieval. The narration/words will trigger the pictures and the pictures will trigger the narration/words. 

In this dual code task, the better system for retrieval is the pairing of the concrete word with the word that represents it. This leads to the quickest reaction times as both input (word and image) are triggers for the other. An abstract word that is not paired with a concrete image—perhaps due to rote rehearsal—will have slower reaction times because someone has to search his/her memory for a definition of the word. There is no word that symbolizes the abstract word.

Rote rehearsal is repeating something over and over shallowly in order to keep it in short term memory. However, as soon as it's allowed to leave short-term memory, it's gone. It hasn't been processed to long term memory. This is fast and quick and easy for short-term projects—i.e. just keeping a phone number in your head in order to write it down. If one wants to remember something for the long haul, he or she needs to give the input context and connect it to meaning. This means processing it deeply and thinking about it and connecting it to earlier memories. For example, if I ever lose my phone and my keys, I have my one emergency phone number of a friend to call. Of course, I have to memorize this number because I will be without my pre-programmed phone. I went through his phone number segment by segment and gave all the numbers meanings. I can recite it now and will probably be able to recite it for the rest of my life!  Obviously, the latter of the two systems is preferred here, but it took time and energy for me to infuse his phone number with that much connecting information. I don't have the time and interest to do that with every phone number in my phone; I choose to spend my cognitive energy elsewhere.

Kahneman and Tversky came up with a two-stage process for judgment- and decision-making. The first stage is Stage 1 processing: it's quick and easy and relies on heuristics (strategies). One of the most "popular" heuristics is the availability heuristic: we judge the world on what happened to us most recently, what has affected us the most emotionally, and what we come in common with the most. Most of the time, we rely on this system because it requires few cognitive resources and it does the job just fine. Unfortunately, with the efficiency comes the loss of accuracy.  
System 2 is slow, methodical, and guaranteed to lead to the right solution if one gives it enough time. Sometimes years and decades is the right time. We can see this with problem solvers who are tackling a large, complex problem. Instead of making a snap decision, they apply an algorithmic solution—which is slow, serial, and methodical.

Grand masters do a lot of processing on system 1. They can look at a glance at patterns on a chessboard and memorize them. Most people can replicate the chess board set up—but that's it. Grand masters can do that if the pieces are in typical patterns; if the pieces are out of context or placed randomly, they can't memorize them. It depends on the context and the meaning of the placement.  Grand Masters have learned from previous games and what moves are possible. They know how games are resolved and have been resolved in the past. Grand Masters do deep processing: they try to look ahead several moves. They don't try to this more than 3-4 moves ahead—which is the amount of units or 'chunks' we can keep in our short term memory.

An algorithm may seem a good choice—always leads to the correct answer eventually—but this isn't a great strategy when one is pressed for time. For example, if you're playing chess, you wouldn't use a "brute force" approach—going though the entire game and exploring every possible solution in detail. As soon as one player moved a chess piece, the next move possibilities would almost be endless. It's in times like this, you need to seek patterns.

When people act unconsciously, they're freeing up cognitive resources to think and process other things. For example, they've done their bedtime routine so many times that they can brush their teeth and put the cat out all the while thinking about their upcoming final exam. However, these routines have to very systematic. As soon as something happens to shove one out of her routine (eg out of toothpaste), she's jarred out of it and has to rely on conscious thinking until she solves any problem and can go back to autopilot. Also, with unconscious processing, there's a problem with action slips: I'm so engaged in my thoughts I forget to take my glasses off before applying a huge handful of face cream. That set me up for a little system 2 problem solving!

Most if not all of the stage one processes tend to be quick and easy and efficient. They free up the mind to do higher calculations and planning. However, one gives up precision and exactness. Precision and exactness come at the price of time—which sometimes one doesn't have. It's a delicate balance.

According to Kahneman and Tversky, we are not utilitarians always doing what's best. We think we're rational human beings who will always do the correct thing but we're swayed by our faulty logic. We're swayed by recent events ("a woman got killed on an elevator so I'm not setting foot on one!"), the amount of emotion (the visit to the doctor has one momentary finger prick so I think it hurts to go to the doctors), and how much something resembles an ideal prototype (It looks like a duck and quacks like a duck: must be a duck!). We're affected by framing effects (how things are worded and presented) and "man-who" arguments (samples of one). All of these examples are System 1 processing. They're fast and easy and right most of the time.

One of the best ways to combat default stage 1 processing seems to be education—especially statistics. Once people have more statistical knowledge, they're more aware of probabilities versus possibilities.

At the airport. Reminds me of that morning I was at SEATAC waiting for Aunt Weslie and Uncle Gordon. I like traveling on my own. Last night I got a taste of living alone and it was awesome. Who knows what is waiting for me when I get back to the states.

At the airport. Reminds me of that morning I was at SEATAC waiting for Aunt Weslie and Uncle Gordon. I like traveling on my own. Last night I got a taste of living alone and it was awesome. Who knows what is waiting for me when I get back to the states.

On the Bus in Edinburgh

I'm on the bus to Edinburgh and there's a European girl who has giggled the entire time. I just want to tell the guy shes with, "just go f*ck her in the bathroom and put us all out of our misery."
Dude must have some patter.

I'm a big jerk

But nothing like a severely disabled kid to ruin a perfectly-good lunch.


Yesterday, I walked to the library and returned some books and checked out some books. I got a copy of Junky by Burroughs. I know I've read that book a couple times. I took it off the shelf and started reading it and thought, "I just can't put this book down when I pick it up." So, last night, I turned off the computer and read Junky in bed for an hour. What a good read. He's got so many characters that I can't keep them straight. I remember reading it when I was seeing Dylan--the junkie. I wonder whatever happened to him. I'll bet I could find him on facebook if I really wanted. Delightful Facebook. Is there anything it can't do.
I wasn't featured in an interview, but they did show a clip of me running around the track the other day. I forwarded the link to everyone but no one could watch it because they're not in the Bronx. Which makes no sense because mom could see it. Perhaps aol's got some special deal.

I tried to run at the track today but there was still pesky ice on the track so I ran around the track. There was a kid out there in an orange t-shirt and shorts. He looked in his teens. He didn't have a hat or gloves or anything on and he was just wandering around the track. Not on it, but around the perimeter fence. I kept thinking and thinking if I should say something. I even went up the driveway to the Police station up there but no one was about. Every single car and truck they had was idling, though. WTF is up with that? Made me want to write a letter to the mayor or the Police Commissioner. I got a great way to keep soaring costs down: stop idling all the fucking Fords in the entire city for hours!

Whatever. Let it go. I can't fight every battle. I know I'm happy and content when my idle mind goes to television shows. That means that nothing's going on. I'm like Homer Simpson with a toy monkey clanging cymbals in his head. How pleasant is that?

What else? Going to meet Cindy at Milon at 6:30 pm. Perhaps I'll go into the city early for a couple hours and do some shopping at K-Mart. I should get some plastic jars to hold things like rice. I suppose I should get some more traps and the like. We've caught so many mice but there are so many in the walls. Where do they come from and why do they like to congregate there?

Getting a lot of feedback but no work so far from all the Katies. I think I should finish up there today. Who knows who the next name is. I'm thinking Aimee or something. It's got to be something I have no record of sending a lot of emails to. I don't want to do a lot of checking. I want to do all the Aimees at once so I don't have to see if I've already sent them emails. That's a pain in the ass.

I'm hungry. I was hungry yesterday. I think I ate too many carbs. I was close to binge behavior. I need to eat more fat and protein. I know it's silly, but it's true. Binging is one of the worst things to do and so far I've avoided it. There have been a couple times where I've wanted to emotionally eat. And I have.

God, help me let go of the messages that drive me into the crazies

God, help me let go of the messages that drive me into the crazies

It was 14 degrees this morning but I went for my run anyway. Everything was so frozen I didn't need boots. There wasn't much ice on the concrete track so that was nice; there also weren't many people out. There was a football league out. There's always someone standing around somewhere. Most of the time it's the park staff standing around shooting their mouths off. I pass them several times. By my count they stand around for fifteen, twenty minutes to half an hour. Just doing nothing. What the hell are they waiting for? The football players I almost wanted to shout at them: "Start playing already! You're wasting precious time." The kids doing field day in the summer also annoy me. Once, they lined the kids up on the track and I passed them about four or five times. They didn't have the kids doing anything; just standing in lines. At least fifteen to twenty minutes. So it goes.
I have a lot of cooking to do today. I have to do a vegetable stir fry. I have to do chicken Parmesan. All this cooking for myself. I can freeze stuff. It makes good little meals. My oatmeal this morning was just right in goldilocks parlance. Just right. I added the correct amount of salt (a lot) and a little more water than usual so it was soupier. I also found a box of Splenda and added a packet of that (calories 0). Because it's not recognized by the body as food! Ha! Michael Pollan would spin in his grave if he were dead. But he's not dead.

Yesterday afternoon, I went down to Chinatown and got my hair cut at the place I've been going to for the last year, I guess. Yep. Time flies. No, actually I think I got it cut at the last place. She did a good job, but she was always busy every successive time I went in there. I went around the corner to the place I go to now--on Forsythe. They've got a vibrating chair and finish every haircut with a great back and neck massage. Totally worth the $13. Cheap! A real experience.

After that, I wandered up to Delancy and over to Ludlow. Everything's changed and I can't remember what was there before. I made a point not to walk by my old building. Just don't want to see it. The Motor City bar is still there and looks the same. A lot of new bars and restaurants and clothing stores. I walked up Avenue A. What a boring street compared to below Houston. I used to love Avenue A. So it goes.

It was soooooo cold. I walked over to Second and was still very early for the dinner party at Nomad. I stopped into the Starlight Diner and sat at the counter and had a cup of decaf. They left me alone. After I paid I used the bathroom. Hey, you gotta pay in life. I paid for my time and my trip to the bathroom.

Had a good time at Nomad. Our table wasn't filled with big talkers but somehow a conversation was had.The food was great. I had the veggie burger which was a black-bean paste in the shape of a burger. It was very good. I didn't eat the bun or the fries. I knew they were coming but I avoided them.

It was cold out last night so at about four in the morning, I had to get up and put another blanket on. Brrrr! Cold. Now I really have to go to the bathroom!

Edie Falco's Aha! Moment -

She never wanted kids—until a milestone birthday and a bout with cancer made her rethink her priorities.

I never really wanted kids. I didn't not want them, but motherhood just wasn't something that pulled at me. My friends started having children after college, while I was pursuing this crazy acting career and living hand to mouth. Plus, all my boyfriends were artists struggling to make a living. Having kids didn't make any sense—why would I take on more of a financial burden when I couldn't even afford a dog?

As I got older and had more serious relationships, the topic of children would sometimes come up. But it was always the man's suggestion, and I'd think, "Well, if kids are what he wants, and if that's what you're supposed to do at this point, maybe I should…" Still, none of those relationships lasted.

Then something happened that I hadn't anticipated: I started going on dates and thinking, "Is this the guy who's going to give me kids?" The idea of motherhood began to take on its own life inside me.

I turned 40 in July 2003, and that September I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had eight months of treatment, and in the spring of 2004, when I was given a clean bill of health, I had one of those moments of clarity where all questions and debates just fall away. The direction was clear: I didn't have to wait for the right man, or to be more ready, or to have more money or a bigger apartment. It was time for me to start a family on my own.

I immediately called a New Jersey adoption agency. (I could have given birth through IVF—I was healthy enough after my cancer treatment—but I wasn't interested.) I started filling out the four million pages of paperwork, which normally would have been daunting enough to keep me from following through. This time, though, I sat there and took it one tedious page at a time.

Within a year, I found myself in a room, waiting. I can remember it like it was five seconds ago. A social worker handed me a teensy baby—my son, Anderson—and my parents and I just lost it. He was so beautiful. Last year, I got my daughter, Macy; she's a dream.

Being a single mother was the right thing for me. But I have a tremendous amount of help from my friends. They're in love with my kids, and my kids are in love with them. We're joined in a sort of bizarre communal arrangement: When I go to work or to an event, my kids are with these friends, and we spend evenings, weekends, and holidays with them, too. It's the closest thing to a family I've had since I was a child.

I haven't given up on having a relationship with a man. It's just not the priority it used to be, and I don't feel "less than" without it. My idea of happiness is different now from what it used to be. It's not the jumping-up-and-down kind; it's a contentedness. The overriding feeling is gratitude, and once you have that it builds on itself and creates this whole giant tower that you can't escape—and you're even more grateful. I am in awe of the way things have turned out. Maybe life isn't supposed to be crappy; maybe the good times are where we're supposed to live.

As told to Suzan Colón

MDMA / Ecstasy psychotherapy sessions with women who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder

Ecstasy approved for medical study

picture of Dr Michael Mithoefer
Dr Michael Mithoefer
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A South Carolina psychiatrist said Wednesday he will immediately start recruiting patients after winning approval to conduct the first study testing MDMA -- better known as ecstasy -- as a therapeutic tool. Dr. Michael Mithoefer plans to conduct psychotherapy sessions with 20 women who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder due to sexual assaults or other violence, and who haven't been helped by other treatment. Twelve of the women will receive MDMA prior to the sessions while eight will be given a placebo.
The Food and Drug Administration approved Mithoefer's protocol in 2001, but it took another two years to find an institutional review board willing to sanction the study, which is a required step when dealing with human research subjects.
Mithoefer's research required approval from the Drug Enforcement Administration because MDMA is a Schedule I drug. It's grouped with drugs like heroin, cocaine and LSD, all considered to have no medical use.
Bill Grant, a spokesman for the DEA, said the final approval came Tuesday night.
Mithoefer says he works with post-traumatic stress disorder patients all the time and he's excited about the possibility of finding a better treatment for the hundreds of thousands of Americans who suffer from the sometimes debilitating disorder.
"We owe it to them," he said. "It would be irresponsible for the medical community not to investigate something like this."
At the same time, he warns that using MDMA in an uncontrolled setting can be very dangerous.
"It's really important for people to realize the fact that we have permission to do this study and we can do it safely in this setting," he said.
Also, the fact that he's received permission for the study, he said, "does not mean that you can use ecstasy safely and anywhere."
MDMA was first invented in 1912 but largely ignored until young people made it a recreational drug starting in the late 1970s. Psychiatrists quickly became aware of its unusual properties, and several dozen experimented by giving MDMA to patients -- including people suffering post-traumatic stress disorder -- and others with intense anxiety after receiving diagnoses of terminal cancer.
One of those patients from the early 1980s is an artist now living in the western United States, who spoke with CNN. She did not want her name used.
After being raped and beaten at age 17, the woman suffered severe panic attacks for eight years, leading to three hospitalizations before being treated with MDMA. Before those sessions, she said her trauma was misdiagnosed as schizophrenia, severe depression and bipolar disorder.
"MDMA allowed me, for the first time, to sit with the details of the event, and separate them from what was happening in the present," she told CNN. "I was able to relax my body. I was able to say, 'this is not happening to you right now.' "
Suicidal at the time, she said the treatment may have saved her life.
"There might have been another way, but the way that I see it is that I probably would have died," she said.
"When someone is traumatized, walls form around trauma -- like a scar -- and it's hard to get someone to open up and talk about it," explains Dr. Julie Holland of New York University, author of "Ecstasy: A Complete Guide."
"What's unique about MDMA is that it's actually stimulating but decreases anxiety," Holland told CNN. "It could help people feel calm and comfortable enough to explore painful things that are hard to talk about."
"A good analogy is that it would give psychiatry something akin to anesthesia during therapy," she said. "And unlike anesthesia, your memory is completely intact, but even enhanced. You remember the trauma very clearly, but are comfortable enough to talk about it."
"Because it anesthetizes the patient to some extent," Holland said, "you can get to that malignant core in one or two sessions instead of three or four years."
But Dr. Scott Lillienfeld, a psychiatrist at Emory University who has studied post-traumatic stress disorder, said that hypothesis is "at the least, muddled."
Lillienfeld said effective treatment actually requires the patient to face their trauma head-on. "If you're calm, you're not getting at the root of the problem," said Lillienfeld.
He also said Mithoefer's study has methodological problems.
"There's no real placebo," he said. "Everyone will know who's on the drugs. What I wonder is, instead of a placebo, why aren't they giving a drug that mimics the physical effects?"
Mithoefer said all participants will have to undergo psychiatric screening and a physical exam to ensure they don't have any physical risk factors. Ecstasy, a strong stimulant, is thought to be particularly dangerous to people with high blood pressure. It also has been known to cause dangerous overheating in people who take it and then exercise or dance for a long period of time.
Patients in this clinical trial will be given the drug only one or two times. They will be under a doctor's supervision for the entire time they are under the drug's influence.
Mithoefer said he hopes to begin the actual therapy sessions next month.

Helping Keep a City Clean, and Maybe Safer -

January 18, 2009

Helping Keep a City Clean, and Maybe Safer

ROSEVILLE, Calif. — Gary Garcia probably knows the early-morning rhythms of the streets here in this city just north of Sacramento better than anyone besides his fellow garbage truck drivers. Anything that breaks the morning pattern is obvious to them, which makes it easy for the garbage collectors to perform an added job — eyes for the police.
"See, here's an odd vehicle here," Mr. Garcia said, gesturing toward a red Ford sedan parked by itself, far from the nearest house, on a street where every other vehicle sat neatly in a driveway. He drove by slowly, peering down into the car but seeing nothing on the seats. "It's an odd place to be parked."
It is a low-tech approach to surveillance, relying not on satellite cameras, space-age radiation detection devices or even neighborhood Webcams. In more and more towns, drivers and garbage collectors are helping the police keep up with what is happening on the streets.
Some of the nation's biggest waste collection companies, including Waste Management and Republic Services, have been participating in the program for several years, allowing police departments to train their workers on what to look for.
The program is now operating in 96 municipalities nationwide, including Londonderry, N.H.; Salt Lake City; Denver; and Fort Worth. "The program has really, I would say, caught fire in the last couple of years," said Zachary T. Lowe, a former F.B.I. agent who was an early proponent of the program as vice president and chief security officer at Waste Management. "We have not advertised it."
The company's "Waste Watch" program suggested the idea to officials of Roseville, whose garbage collectors are municipal employees. Local police officers trained the drivers, who are not paid extra for participating, last summer.
Most mornings, Mr. Garcia says, are loud — as his big truck rumbles to the curb, and its mechanical arm picks up, empties and repositions 90-pound plastic trash bins — and predictable. Once in a while, though, he spots something that seems out of place — that red car near Bill Santucci Park, for example, or on another day a man walking aimlessly at 7 a.m. in a neighborhood that rarely has foot traffic.
About once a month, Mr. Garcia says, he sees something unusual enough to merit a call to a special police number.
Police officers say they appreciate the drivers' tips, especially as budgets shrink. Over the last two years in Roseville, the police department has left 10 positions unfilled. Having the garbage trucks on patrol may not take the place of a police car, but it helps.
"It's a huge benefit for us," said Lt. Michael Doane, watch commander for the Roseville police. "Obviously we're not increasing law enforcement staff right now, because of budget issues."
Lieutenant Doane recalled a tip from a driver who had spotted a man walking down a street, peering into parked cars. "We went out and investigated, and sure enough the person had done some auto burglaries," he said.
Apparently the man never noticed the passing garbage truck, Lieutenant Doane added. "Everybody is used to seeing garbage trucks and public street workers and electric meter readers out every day," he said. "Nobody pays any attention to them."
Drivers are told not to intervene when they see something suspicious, said Aric Henschen, general manager for Republic Services in Aurora, Ill. They are asked instead to "make sure you get a license plate number, try to get as much physical information as you can."
Drivers' tips have led to drug-trafficking arrests, Mr. Henschen said, and to the discovery of a corpse in a home that had gone so long without having any trash that a driver grew suspicious.
Toby August, a senior driver in Roseville, said he often reported people he suspected of being drunken drivers. "Three guys got in a Jeep, all with beers, the driver talking on a cellphone," he said. "I called that one in."
Riding high in the cab of a garbage truck, it is impossible not to notice things. Signs of family life are evident in trash: a birth is announced by a crib's big cardboard box, the aging of children shown in the abandonment of a kiddie pool. Garbage collectors are also informal, hands-on economists, Mr. Garcia said, explaining that when times are good, everyone produces more garbage and that the absence of trash is often a sign of a foreclosed home.
"You can tell how well a particular restaurant is doing from the amount of trash," he said.
Having a recognized, official reason to notice and analyze is a source of pride, Mr. Garcia said, something that helps make up for the obscene gestures and angry honks from impatient drivers trying to pass his truck.
"They have no idea what we do," he said.