...I am the biggest asshole on earth. This is what it feels like to implode; I remember it well. But I shouldn't be hurting someone else when this happens. This is heavy karma, and it blew right up into my face.

As it should...

So, by my math, for the price of one F-22 Raptor aircraft, you could buy about 15,360-some Toyota Priuses, or roughly 25,037 or so Smart Cars...

Just a thought...

What if you woke up one morning to the following headlines:

I'd say that it would be a pretty good news day for science, wouldn't you? The fact is, these headlines have been published. All you need do is click on the links and see their source.

So I awoke this morning to a bit of an annoyance...

Now obviously, this isn't much by way of hard news. NPR ran this as a piece on their public news blog, "The Two-Way" which is a place for a lighter and more interactive take on the news. Fine and dandy.

But did we have to have this again? Seriously, is there no way a news organization can discuss cannabis--medical or otherwise--without stooping down to "pot jokes"? My comment on their Facebook page was this:
Actually, why don't we do something crazy and treat a medical marijuana story seriously for a change? Find out the impact this fire has on the sick? See if there were any serious long-term effects on the fire-fighters? You know... "reporting"?

I listen to NPR because it takes my issues seriously. Well, most of them, apparently. Kinda sad, actually. It would have made for an interesting story...
Which I'm rather proud of in a restraint sort-of way, frankly. 600+ comments on this, and every lame joke in the book. I just don't get it.

I guess it's always easiest to joke about the things that make us nervous. But I guess my point is, why does this still make us nervous?

You can waltz into your doctor's office and ask for any number of really deadly and terribly addictive things to "help" a given condition. You learn of these "helpful" medications (and often the condition as well) through overt and laser-like-targeted advertising by pharmaceutical companies with revenues larger than a number of countries GNP's. These are medical compounds approved by the FDA whose side-effect list is long and ugly, and can cause great physical harm and ultimately death, even if used as prescribed. But you can walk in and most-likely get any of a number of them simply by asking your doctor. Not only that, but your first treatment course of any of a number of these medications is often free of charge because the prescribing physician will give you samples provided by a regularly-visiting representative of said pharmaceutical behemoth who leaves piles of the drugs in question at your doctor's clinic for expressly this purpose.

Once you've tried these wonder-drugs, you often find that they don't work well for you, so you need to stop using them. Often in the case of pan medication, you begin to feel worse than you did when you started the medication (because the medication in question blocked pain signals in the brain). At other times, you learn (often after the fact) that the medication had some theretofore unknown (to the manufacturer, and thereby the FDA) toxicity that has now permanently damaged your liver, kidneys or heart. Your consolation prize: At least you get to be part of a class-action suit. Sometimes, in the case of psychotropic medication, you may suddenly feel unhinged and disconnected. Your doctor assures you that that's perfectly normal, and gives you an anti-anxiety medication to help with that feeling. But the perturbation doesn't seem to go away, and it's now four months later.

And on.

And on.

And on...

Yes, I'm digressing a bit. Here's the nut:

I use medical cannabis.
I have for years. It helps me greatly.
I wish more people understood it better.
It has helped a number of close people in my life live with more functionality and less pain, and has helped me directly help a number of those people die with less suffering and more dignity.
I wish our government would wise up and allow legitimate scientific study of cannabis and cannabinoids.

Can cannabis be abused? Absolutely. Can it create a dependency? Again, yes. But in my opinion (and I say this as nothing less than a near- medical cannabis expert) the dangers of both cannabis abuse and dependency are vastly overstated by the government drug-war propaganda machine, and are vastly less dangerous than anything you can get from your doctor. Here's a simple list of facts:

Tobacco 435,0001
Poor Diet and Physical Inactivity 365,0001
Alcohol 85,000 1
Microbial Agents 75,0001
Toxic Agents 55,0001
Motor Vehicle Crashes 26,3471
Adverse Reactions to Prescription Drugs 32,0002
Suicide 30,6223
Incidents Involving Firearms 29,0001
Homicide 20,3084
Sexual Behaviors 20,0001
All Illicit Drug Use, Direct and Indirect 17,0001, 5
Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs Such As Aspirin 7,6006
Marijuana 07

So, we're talking about something that has no direct attributable deaths, and causes less physical harm than ASPIRIN. To frame this issue in a slightly different manner, let's look at something cheery, like fatalities.

Fatal doses are listed in science by a metric called the LD50, which represents the dosage at which 50% of the test subjects (read: "animals") die. Here are a few LD50's for a few famous (and infamous) compounds:
Como say wha? The average body mass of the average lab rat (The Norway rat or laboratory rat rattus norvegicus) is about 385g. You mean to tell me that a rat would have to consume 481.25g of pure THC (NOT cannabis itself, just the most famous active compound in the plant matter) in one concentrated dose in order to be close to the mean of lethality? That's 125% of it's own body mass! Now take into consideration that even if we take the most powerful cannabis you can get a hold of, with THC concentrations on the order of 20% THC (which is on the generous side of things, to say the least), that means the rat would have to consume 625% of its body weight in properly dried and cured cannabis bud plant matter to be close to death. Extrapolated further (and using the above math), for an average 170 lb human, that means that human would have to ingest 1062.5lbs in one sitting! That, my friends, is not only patently absurd, but it's medically, practically and physically impossible.

Look, what I'm saying is this: the hysteria surrounding cannabis needs to end. We are wasting precious time, money and resources fighting a war that need not be fought, let alone one that claims so many lives. The only deaths that have ever resulted from direct involvement with cannabis come from its prohibition and criminalization. Cannabis abuse is a real concern, but MUST be viewed in light of the facts and the cost/benefit ratio that can be studied, but we can't do that until legitimate unbiased science can study it! Our legal drugs cost our society more in pain, suffering, addiction and death than all cannabis consumption combined throughout the course of human history, yet we refuse to address these legitimate issues ON BOTH SIDES of the argument because we have been lead to believe that this simple plant somehow has a morality inherent to it. We treat cannabis like we treat sex; we like to giggle about it publicly, but we don't like to say good things about it openly, or even appear to have an opinion one way or the other.

We have rightly elevated the discussion of so many things in the past year or so, including gay marriage, AIDS, suicidal behavior of our veterans and a host of other topics. We must do so with regards to cannabis. It is an imperative to our country that we do so. If we cannot, or simply refuse to in order to make our lives easier by being able to go for the lay-up of a joke instead of saying something substantive, that is a very sad comment on many things, not the least of which is the character of our society and the collective intellect of both our nation, its leaders and our scientific community.

I watch the ripples change their size
But never leave the stream
Of warm impermanence and
So the days float through my eyes
But still the days seem the same

"Changes" by David Bowie

It's very easy to chalk things up to "change". We have lots of interesting witticisms, catch phrases and lyrics about change. We spend massive amounts of time, money and energy dealing with--or fighting against--the possibility of change. Change is, quite frankly, the great dread we all live with. In the cannon of Existentialist literature, the one constant theme (once you whittle away all the verbiage) that is dealt with is change (or again; a perceived lack thereof). The fear of change--of being nudged out of our "dreaded contentment"--is so overwhelming at times in our lives that it has caused some to make the ultimate change (and ultimate mistake) and end their existences. How shocking to me now, yet not so long ago I, too, was as misguided as that.

A few philosophers* have taken a stab at this topic, so I'll let their work stand in stead of anything I may rehash, but I do have a better handle on this now than I once did, at least in my own mind, and for my own life. That's all I'll really report on the topic of change. I still don't find it easy, and I sure as hell don't find it fun most times, but one thing I have come to appreciate about change is that it is rather liberating. Honestly, it establishes to me that the Universe is doing its thing exactly as it is supposed to. Were things to stay the same, something would be very, very wrong.

When change comes, it's like a reset on the here and now, reminding you that no matter how comfortable you may have allowed yourself to become, the Universe calls you to rise up and show why we are all so special. Because we are, after all, the only beings we know of that can not only deal with change, but appreciate why change is so important (above and beyond needing a place to nest for the night). We can plan all we want (however vainly) to attempt to prevent change from happening in the future, or write songs about the tumult of the past, but when you finally fall in line with your breath, and be intimately aware of your body in relation to everything else, there's a chance that it may occur to you, too...

Change is what makes the now worth-while.

*= Okay, all of them. It was a joke...

What does one do when everything seems to go pear-shaped? This is particularly tricky for me because I don't really care for pears all that much. Never have. I was over-pear'd as a child.

It's very easy for me to simply hide away when it all seems to be going wrong. Actually, at times, I believe it's human nature to do so. But after a bit of a think, I realize it's the opposite, or at least it most likely is.

When an animal is frightened, or injured, it tends to "hole-up". There is generally more (perceived) safety in the hole or den. There is some modicum of comfort. Ease, even in dis-ease. It often feels the thing to do. But I understand--in my life at least--that that is the animal side of things.

And while I (and you, and you and you, too) are, in fact, animals, I am (and you, and you and you are, too) more than just animals (I didn't say "mere animals", because I find animals to be pretty miraculous things). We are all part of the most stunningly amazing species on the whole planet (save the platypus, which is extra special, of course. Oh, and pwnies). We are all able to do something that no other critter can do, and that is to get past our instincts and do that which we know is best for us, no matter how hard or counter-intuitive that may seem.

For a long time, I was unable to do that myself. And while I don't want to make it sound like I'm a super-self-actualized uber-aware dude, I'm able to say with some confidence that I'm much better at doing it now. I've developed some skills to get myself out of that "hole" and do things that are best for me. That doesn't mean it isn't hard--at times it's still like pulling teeth. But when one develops a few simple skills, the load lightens, at least at times.

A strong mindfulness practice, for me, is the best tool I've ever come across to help in this regard. Being able to step away from the chatter in the mind, turn the volume down, and get some perspective is by far the best tool I've ever put in my tool-box. Admittedly, it's like one of those tools you used to find in your dad's garage or your mom's kitchen that you had no idea whatsoever what in the hell it could be for; you know it had to be for something very specific and very important, but at first (and second and at times third) glance, you can only say "What the...?"

This is like a torque wrench or high-end pastry cutter. It has an appeal all its own just by virtue of its mystique, and you want to know what it is and what it does, but you are sort-of afraid to ask about it, either for fear of being found ignorant, or the commitment it may require to learn how to use it properly. It is/was for me, anyway.

But all it takes is seeing the tool in action, properly employed, and the results that it brings, and you suddenly go "I must have that!" (and off to Harbor Freight or Sur La Table you go.)

This is often how my teachers make me feel. Seeing them using these tools in their own lives gives me faith and confidence to at least try these tools out (before buying: smartness) and see what results can be achieved. It may take time, and you may break lots of bolts and crusts at first, but at a minimum, you'll at least be able to judge their effectiveness from first-hand experience rather than wondering from afar.

So, lesson: to make a good pie, you need to be willing to use a torque-wrench improperly to break a few pears.

See how easy that is?

So, the Zen "thing"...

Been a while since I've written about my practice. I'm in a bit of an interesting place with it lately. It's sort-of in "summer love" mode, I guess you'd say. I'm not practicing as intensely as I'd been through the fall-winter-spring, but at the same time, I've noticed something very interesting to me.

Zen has permeated and informed my life in ways I hadn't realized. From the way I talk to the way I eat to the way I love, Buddhism--and Zen in particular--seems to have crept in everywhere. Any time I simply stop and drop into "observer mode", I see it. When I eat, I taste it, or feel it in my mouth. I look at food so differently now, and by "look", I actually mean the process of sight, and my ability to appreciate and assimilate something so (apparently) counter-intuitive as the sight of food. Why is looking at your food before wolfing it down so counter-intuitive? I mean, are we one step away from People Chow? Why is looking at and appreciating our food so back-seat to our experience?

Even the way I touch my partner is now something I have a hard time explaining. I've been given a practice by my teacher: be in my hands. Now, this is not to sound creepy or anything, but recently, I've heard him say this in my head while touching her. I was really stunned the first time. How could I have become mindless about touching someone intimately? How can we allow for something so very stunningly important to become so banal? So merely physical? I laid my hand across her chest, and was stunned to find her so unbelievably warm. It nearly blew me away.

And talking. Communicating. I have so much trouble with negative speech now. Harsh words, said in a way so as to make the speaker feel powerful or superior (read: "snark"). And yet I still find myself speaking this way from time to time. I try not to judge myself for it, but at the same time I do feel shame for wasting precious energy on words that don't matter, or worse, are sent out into the world with less-than-compassionate intent. More than anything, I simply feel bad for wasting time and energy that way.

So for me, Zen has become sort-of a stain: an ink used to trace out etchings like we did back in 8th grade metal shop. It is so fluid and of such low viscosity that it seeps into every nook and crevice, marking and delineating the finest details of my life. And not only does it seep in of its own accord, but due to its ultra-low-viscosity, it is readily drawn into any growing gap in my life as if by some sort of psychological or spiritual capillary action.

I am continually amazed and humbled by Zen, but more recently, this has given way to a simple and comfortable acceptance of this practice in my life. It's very much like the strong and week nuclear force, I suppose: You don't really notice it most of the time, but it's always there, doin' its thing to keep you together, even when the Universe is constantly trying to pull you apart...

Somebody in my life who's been dipping their toe in the waters of vegetarian eating has been wanting New England-style clam chowder. This is a recipe mash-up that I came up with that works pretty well. Still missing that sea-food-y taste, but I think if I add powdered kelp, we may get even closer. IMO, it also needs some acid, like lemon. No matter, this tastes great! (Warning: a bit high in sodium...)

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped roughly
  • 2 tbsp Earth Balance butter sub
  • 4 medium (1 lb. total) red potatoes, diced
  • 2 cups vegetarian broth
  • 2 cups crimini mushrooms, torn into chunks
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels (I used fire-roasted from Trader Joe's)
  • 1-2 cups celery-chopped (with leaves)
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Freshly-ground black pepper (to taste)
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp Old Bay seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp sage
  • 2 boxes IMAGINE-brand potato-leek soup -OR- 4 cans creamy potato soup of choice, -OR- make your own potato soup.
  • 1tbsp Wondra gravy thickener.

  1. Steam fry the onion in the butter sub 3min. Add garlic and steam from 4-5 min more.
  2. Add in mushrooms and veggie oyster sauce and steam fry 3-4 more min, or until the mushrooms start to release their juice.
  3. Add potatoes, celery and corn. Stir and combine with other ingredients. Add broth and bring to a simmer.
  4. Lower heat and add in potato soup and seasonings. Bring to boil, stirring regularly. Reduce to low and simmer for 20min, or until potatoes are tender.
  5. Whisk the Wondra or like thickener into 1/4 cup warm water, then add to soup pot and stir. Turn off heat and let stand.

Tweet, tweet, tweet said I;
Smallish thoughts chirped to the world:
Birds do it better.

Thai-style hot and sour soup...

Hot and Sour Soup is a world favorite. This recipe is based upon the one found at thai.about.com, but with a few key differences, most notably the doubling of the recipe to make enough soup for the next day!

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 8 minutes


• 12 cups (three boxes) "chik'n"-style broth - Serves 8 as an appetizer, or 2 for main entree (with left-overs)
• 8 cloves garlic, minced
• 2 thumb-size piece galangal or ginger, grated or finely sliced into matchstick-like pieces (skip the galangal, imo; the stuff befuddles me...)
• 1/4 cup soy sauce or tamari
• 2 Tbsp. red miso paste (in place of fish sauce)
• 3 Tbsp chilli & garlic paste
• 1/4 cup sweet chilli sauce (like Dan's bento sauce)
• 2 Tbsp chilli oil
• 1/4 cup rice vinegar
• 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
• 4 kaffir lime leaves (frozen, fresh, or dried) OR 2 Tbsp. lime juice
• 1 heaping Tbsp. cornstarch dissolved in 3 Tbsp. water (whisk)
• 1-2 cups mixed "critter-bits" plus tofu

VEGETABLES (choose from the following, or add your own selection):

• 1 red or green bell pepper
• handful fresh or dried shiitake mushrooms (if dried, soak them in hot water for several hours)
• 1 cup Chinese cabbage such as bok choy, roughly chopped
• handful of fresh or frozen spinach
• frozen or fresh broccoli
• bamboo shoot strips


• Serve soup over pre-cooked rice noodles. We used a very thick and chewy kind (not flat-wide rice-stick. Think more like "rice-udon") that we were dubious of before hand, but worked out most excellently, although rice-stick would work well.


• handful of fresh coriander OR fresh basil
• lime
• mung bean sprouts


1. Heat broth in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, galangal or ginger, soy sauce, miso paste, chilli, vinegar, brown sugar and lime leaves. Bring to a boil, then reduce to medium heat and allow to simmer while you add next ingredients.
2. Grill meat/tofu on a cast-iron grill or the like to give it some character, then add it to the pot, plus the vegetables. Simmer 3-5 minutes, or until vegetables are lightly cooked (but still on the crisp side).
3. Prepare the cornstarch thickener by using some broth. Whisk until smooth, then add to soup pot and stir to blend.
4. Ladle the hot soup into bowls (by itself or over noodles) and garnish with fresh coriander or basil.