What No One Tells You About Chronic Pain as a 20-something


After seeing rheumatologists, GPs, physiatrists, PTs, sports medicine doctors, geneticists, neurologists, pain specialists, endocrinologists, and orthopedic surgeons, I was still not getting anything useful from anyone. I had a posse of residents following me around the hospital and calling me 24/7 to ask me questions. Nurses would make little cracks about “Erica and her entourage.”

I was in so much pain that I was willing to try anything, including hypnotists and private meditation counselors. But it was finally decided that I had tried enough, and the only step left was to go to Johns Hopkins Hospital. I managed to get an appointment with the top pain specialist in the country, and in July of 2013, he diagnosed me with Chronic Myofascial Pain Syndrome, Hypermobility-Type Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and hypothyroidism. With these diagnoses he told me, as gently as he could, that there was a good chance it would never get better, and that there was a serious possibility I might never work again…

Not many people can relate to all of this. The fear, the immaculate planning, the general anxiety, the stuff you have to put up with from doctors and the judgment from people in general. I lost many good friends in this process—even people I thought I was really close to. The last two years have been gruesome, not just physically but psychologically. Watching all of your friends grow in their professions and their relationships—their lives overall, really—is hard to watch from your bed…

What to Pack When You Need to Go to the ER…

When I went to see my geneticist at GBMC, we could tell some of these were allergic reactions and some were something else, so she ordered me a Genelex Youscript Test. It’s a pricey one, but luckily my insurance covered it. It’s a swab cheek test that analyzes how well you metabolize certain drugs. It’s very confusing to read, even for most doctors but a lot of the reps there are very good at explaining to the least science-y person ever. But, no surprise, I was an “intermediate metabolizer”/slow metabolizer for the phenotype that includes many painkillers and antidepressants…

Prison Born


Alyssa Mayer was four months pregnant the day a police officer showed up at her motel room in Kingston, New York. It was late afternoon in August 2013, the sun dragging toward the Catskills on the west side of town. Earlier that week, her boyfriend, who’d been sleeping at her place since he found out about the baby, had missed a curfew check. Both of them had recently gotten out of prison on parole, and weren’t supposed to be around anyone else with a criminal record. With the authorities looking for him, they could both get in trouble. So they’d packed some clothes and driven to a Super 8 and hoped for some idea of what to do next. Mayer was going out to pick up a pizza when she ran into the officer in the hallway.

She and her boyfriend had grown up together around Kingston. The area had been a manufacturing center for IBM until the company started laying off workers in the early 1990s, around the time Mayer was born, leaving not much more than strip malls and fast-food joints, along with rising crime rates, in stretches of the Hudson Valley. After Mayer’s parents split up, when she was a toddler, her mother worked two jobs and would return home seeming distant. Mayer spent a lot of time at her grandmother’s house and, later, on the streets in the rough part of town. In high school, she moved in with a cocaine dealer she met one day at a gas station. He bought her new clothes, manicures, anything she wanted. By the time the relationship ended, she was making sales of her own.

In 2009, when Mayer was 18, she fronted six grams to a friend who had just gotten out of prison. He told her he was broke and needed to make a quick deal. As it turned out, he had already made one with the local narcotics team. Some time later, the cops kicked in the front door of her apartment, and she ended up with a three-year felony sentence.

When Mayer learned she was pregnant, in the summer of 2013, she had already returned to prison twice for parole violations. She called a clinic to make an appointment for an abortion. She knew she wasn’t in the best position to be a parent—she had started a new job and believed she could turn her life around, but she wasn’t sure that her boyfriend wanted to do the same. She didn’t want her child to be raised without a father, like she had been. Once her boyfriend found out, though, he swore to her that they would work things out. So she didn’t show up for the appointment, and instead got a tattoo across her collarbone that read Blessed. Not long after that, they went on the run.

The officer who handcuffed Mayer in the motel didn’t seem to care when she told him she was pregnant. Neither did the parole judge, who charged her with fraternizing with another parolee and skipping curfew and ordered her back to prison. As she stripped down at the intake facility and stepped forward to be searched, she faced the question that thousands of American women do each year: What happens to a baby born in detention? …

“So many women have a long history of extreme trauma.” …


Hemp Oil Versus CBD Oil: What’s The Difference?


Consumers often confuse hemp oil with CBD oil because both are low in THC and contain CBD…

Though hemp oil does contain low levels of CBD, typically less than 25 parts per million (ppm), CBD extracts “are produced either directly from cannabis flowers that are up to 15 percent CBD (150,000 ppm), or indirectly as a co-product of the flowers and leaves that are mixed in with the stalks during hemp stalk processing for fiber.”

Because of this distinction, the association says, “It is important for American farmers and processors of hemp to understand that most CBD in products mislabeled as ‘hemp oil’ is a product of large-scale hemp stalk and fiber processing facilities in Europe where the fiber is the primary material produced at a large scale.

“CBD is not a product or component of hemp seeds, and labeling to that effect is misleading and motivated by the desire to take advantage of the legal gray area of CBD under federal law.” …


However, the cannabinoid is still illegal in most of the United States, which has provided an opportunity for some hemp businesses to market a variation of knockoff CBD treatments that they claim have the same healing power as popular strains such as Charlotte’s Web.

However, after patients began submitting complaints about some of these products, including “Real Scientific Hemp Oil,” claiming they were making them sick, a research firm dedicated to cannabidiol education – called Project CBD – launched a full-blown investigation into the matter. After six months, the organization emerged with a 30-page report entitled “Hemp Oil Hustlers: A Project CBD Special Report on Medical Marijuana Inc., HempMeds and Kannaway,” which began as a curious look into an umbrella penny stock company, but transformed into a dissection of the hemp oil industry and its sometimes shady business practices…

Internet Test Reveals Americans Are Not Getting the Speeds They Paid For


For too long Internet users had to take it on faith that our Internet access providers were making good on their promises to give us what we pay for.

But even those who pay a premium for top speeds have found that certain sites and services sputter out at the pace of dial-up. And calling your ISP’s customer-service department to find out what’s going on can be a torturous exercise — requiring you to endure an endless loop of hold music as you pray for a sentient being to pick up the line.

Now you can do something about it. Last month BattlefortheNet.com launched the Internet Health Test to collect data on the speeds offered by the likes of AT&T, Comcast and Verizon.

The test is an interactive tool that lets users run speed measurements across multiple “interconnection points” and gather information on whether and where ISPs are degrading speeds.

The good news: Since its launch, more than 300,000 Internet users have run the Internet Health Test, resulting in over 2.5 million data points.

Now here’s the bad: The evidence collected points to slowdowns for users on the networks of five of the largest Internet access providers — AT&T, CenturyLink, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Verizon — which represent 75 percent of all U.S. wireline households.

And the ugly: Since the test results were made public a number of paid cable industry operatives have tried to tear down these findings, suggesting without actually looking at the data that they are faulty and somehow corrupted.

In truth, big phone and cable companies are terrified that so many people are performing the speed tests and compiling data on what ails the Internet. The service slowdown isn’t a problem just for Internet users hoping to get their money’s worth. It’s also a potential violation of the hard-won Net Neutrality rules that went into effect on June 12. The Federal Communications Commission now has a number of enforcement tools on hand to go after phone and cable companies that don’t live up to promises when it comes to Internet speed, quality and reliability.

Often the degradation occurs at interconnection points — the Internet nodes where traffic an ISP customer requests crosses between the ISP’s network and a network on which content and application providers host their services.

The Internet Health Test uses Measurement Lab (M-Lab) infrastructure and code to run speed measurements from your ISP across multiple points to detect and compare performance.

Sifting through the mountain of data, Collin Anderson of M-Lab reports that “Patterns of degraded performance occurred across the United States, impacting customers of various access ISPs when connecting to measurement points hosted within a number of transit ISPs in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Seattle and Washington, D.C.”

According to the data, AT&T users, and especially users in Atlanta, Chicago and Los Angeles, experienced consistent patterns of degradation across interconnection services, most notably on GTT Communications. GTT is the world’s fifth largest interconnection service, according to Dyn Research. The sixth largest service, Tata, also experienced significant slowdowns.

“In Chicago and Atlanta,” Anderson writes, “this degradation was at its most extreme, with peak-hour performance frequently less than 0.1 Mbps. Other access ISPs such as Comcast did not display as substantial degradation to those same sites during the same period.”

The FCC is on the cusp of approving AT&T’s multibillion-dollar merger with DirecTV. A central issue deal opponents raise is that the merger would give AT&T a greater incentive to control how data-rich services like Netflix reach their users. AT&T has resisted any conditions that would prevent it from slowing similar services at key interconnection points.

According to Internet Health Test data, AT&T often sticks customers with speeds that are slower than the FCC’s bare-minimum definition for Internet access, and many times more sluggish than what it advertises. Last week the FCC levied a $100 million fine against AT&T for misleading customers about its unlimited mobile-data plans. The fine is the largest the agency has ever imposed.

The problem with AT&T service is just one slice taken from the trove of evidence the Internet Health Test has yielded. To learn more, more people need to take the test.

White Pride

When I think of groups that advocate for white pride, I think of neo-nazis and racists.  As a white person, I don’t think we have that much to be proud of.  (Which makes David Brooks’ claim that we are suffering from a lack of humility rather interesting, and perhaps ironic, considering he’s a rich white guy.)

White history and how we have treated other races and ethnic groups is quite dismal and embarrassing.  Even though slavery is supposed to be in the past, the drug war has created the “The New Jim Crow,” as explained by Michelle Alexander in her book of the same title.

Although it could be argued that we’re really in the midst of an economic war — the rich vs. the poor — as the criminal justice system can also be described as a debtor’s prison and mental institution.

But when I think of groups that advocate for black or Hispanic pride, I think of minorities standing up for their ethnic backgrounds.

And so when I see the “Asian Pride” sticker on this car, I think, what if it said “White Pride”? Soon, white people will be in the minority, and then will it be okay to see a white pride sticker? Is it only minorities that are allowed to have pride?

If white people had something to be proud of, I might be worried.

The facts vs. David Brooks


For at least the past four years David Brooks, the New York Times columnist, TV pundit, bestselling author and lecture-circuit thought leader, has been publicly talking and writing about humility. Central to his thesis is the idea that humility has waned among Americans in recent years, and he wants us to harken to an earlier, better time…

There’s just one problem: Nearly every detail in this passage – which Brooks has repeated relentlessly, and which the media has echoed, also relentlessly — is wrong…

The passage from “The Road to Character” reads:

“In 1950, the Gallup Organization asked high school seniors if they considered themselves to be a very important person. At that point, 12 percent said yes. The same question was asked in 2005, and this time it wasn’t 12 percent who considered themselves very important, it was 80 percent.” …

The War on Thugs — How propaganda fuels our prison problem


One particularly important example, both disturbing and revealing, is “super-predator theory,” introduced by, among others, John Dilulio Jr., a political-science professor at Princeton at the time, in a successful attempt to advocate for adult prison sentences for juvenile offenders. The theory postulated a group of “super-predators” with intrinsically violent natures, who “kill, rape, maim, and steal without remorse,” and for whom reform was not an option. In the mid-1990s, Dilulio predicted a large increase in violent crime in the United States from 1995 to 2000. His prediction was treated as credible, despite the fact that violent crime in the United States began dropping in the early 1990s and continued to fall from 1995 to 2000…

The theory had a large effect on public discourse. In the 1996 election, Bill Clinton and Bob Dole competed over who would be harsher on these “super-predators.” …

Dilulio’s belief that there was going to be an explosion of violent crime proved to be wildly wrong…

Democratic deliberation becomes impossible when figures of authority are allowed to employ incendiary propagandistic rhetoric — not just “super-predator” but also “wilding,” “crack epidemic,” “thug,” and “gang.” These words reduce or eliminate our capacity to think of those to whom they are applied as equals, deserving of empathy. When they are used by authority figures in a democracy, they undermine the very ideals that grant those figures their authority…

Consider “sentencing enhancement zones,” more colloquially known as “school drug zones.” These are laws that increase penalties for offenders caught within a certain distance of schools. The arguments in favor of school drug zones employ valued ideals — the protection of children, for example — and appear to be the hallmark of fair, race-neutral legal policies. But school drug zones are not race-neutral. As the Prison Policy Initiative points out, “[s]entencing enhancement laws … create a two-tiered system of justice: a harsher one for dense urban areas with numerous schools and overlapping zones and a milder one for rural and suburban areas, where schools are relatively few and far between.” Such laws place an extra burden on families that live in urban areas, endangering rather than protecting their children…

Sylvia Wynter, a Stanford scholar of African-American studies, began a 1994 article, “‘No Humans Involved’: An Open Letter to My Colleagues,” with the news that “public officials of the judicial system of Los Angeles regularly used the acronym NHI to refer to any case involving a breach of the rights of young Black males who belong to the jobless category of the inner city ghettoes. NHI means ‘no humans involved.’” …

Dehumanizing propaganda — “thug,” “predator”, “gang member” — is employed to hinder any attempt to explore the root causes of disorder. When blacks protest in response to social injustice, it creates disorder. When crime rates rise, it creates disorder. Propaganda mixed with fear leads to tolerance of injustice. The use of propaganda allows us to overlook gross inequities in the treatment of those to whom the propagandistic vocabulary is applied, inequities that are inconsistent with political equality…

In the past 35 years, the population of U.S. citizens who are incarcerated has increased more than fourfold. The lack of empathy toward those caught in the grip of the prison system is not consistent with the ideals of liberal democracy. There is, for example, no national outcry about the tens of thousands of Americans subject to long-term solitary confinement, despite vivid accounts of its horrors. Prison rape continues to be a topic for comedy routines…

Making fun of Rachel Dolezal


VIDEO: And Now for the Inevitable Rachel Dolezal Late-Night TV Spoofery

painkills2 • 6 minutes ago
If you were to read other sources of information besides the media, you might learn that there’s a good possibility that Ms. Dolezal is suffering from mental illness because of child abuse. Posts by bloggers like Tina Dupuy (“Rachel Dolezal is Acting Like a Child Abuse Victim Acts”) and Robert M. Goldstein (“Lies and Confabulations”) bring to light information like:

“Rachel Dolezal’s brother, author Joshua Dolezal, faces trial for alleged sexual abuse of a black child”

“In 2013, Joshua was charged with four felony counts of sex abuse of a minor. The incidents, according to an affidavit obtained by the Post, happened at his parents’ home in Colorado “in 2001 or 2002.” The victim “was 6 or 7 years old,” and Joshua Dolezal was “19 years older.” Dolezal allegedly made the victim perform oral sex on him twice and he performed oral sex on the victim “7 or 8” times, allegedly telling the victim “Don’t tell anyone or I’ll hurt you.” The affidavit also lists another allegation of abuse in 1991 of another victim that had a racial element.”

So, go ahead, make fun of this woman. Make ya’ll feel better?

Latino children at risk for depression due to authoritarian parenting styles


The study, which was conducted at The University of Texas at Austin’s School of Social Work, looked at how common it was for children to show physical signs of sickness, despite having no physical reason for being sick. This is known as somatization, and researchers believe that these symptoms stem from internalizing anxiety and depression…

Of the children surveyed, nearly 50% of them were at risk for anxiety, with 10% at risk for depression and somatization as well. These rates increased over time and are reflective of the most common childhood mental health issues. In particular, Latino children seemed to display these conditions at a higher level than the general population.

Researchers believe that these numbers may be explained by the parenting styles inherent to Hispanic cultures. In general, Hispanic families tend to put more emphasis on obedience and respect for adult authority. This authoritarian style is characterized by clear rules, high standards, strict punishment, and little communication. These parents can often be highly controlling.

“Our study suggests that the disproportionate risk for anxiety, depression, and suicide attempts observed among Latino, compared to non-Latino, youths begins way before adolescence…

Somatization can be a huge hurdle for a child to overcome as they grow up. They can become very nervous around authority figures, which include teachers. It creates a very challenging learning environment that all children must try to cope with.

Virtual reality therapy may help those suffering from alcohol dependence


Virtual-reality therapy has been used in the fields of psychology and psychiatry to treat many different disorders, including phobias and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It allows researchers and doctors to expose people to the things that trigger their fears and anxiety while ensuring they are in a safe and controlled setting…

Although measurable outcomes are hard to measure in this kind of study, researchers were able to observe what the treatment did to the patients’ brain chemistry. Before beginning the sessions, Han and his team took brain scans of the patients and noted that each had a faster metabolism in the brain’s limbic circuit. Having a faster brain metabolism makes a person more sensitive to stimuli, like alcohol.

After the virtual-reality therapy sessions were complete, doctors scanned the patients again and noticed that their brain metabolisms had slowed. Han suggests that this shows a reduced craving for alcohol…

Samsung disables Windows Update


If you have a Samsung laptop, beware: Samsung has apparently disabled the Windows Update feature on many of its laptops, leaving you vulnerable to any security holes which Windows updates are supposed to patch…

Not only did Samsung secretly install an app to disable Windows Update, it even gave that name to the app. Worse yet, even if the user notices this and deliberately re-enables Windows Update, SW Update and Disable_Windowsupdate.exe will disable it again, the next time your computer reboots.

TheNextWeb news, which first brought Barker’s blog post to wider notice, said that “According to a support representative, it’s there to stop the computer from automatically downloading drivers from Windows Update that could be incompatible with the system or cause features to break. … Samsung’s software update service doesn’t actually ship with the application installed, it’s silently downloaded in the background at a later time from a non-HTTP server and installed without asking the user.”

But Gizmodo used less diplomatic phrasing to summarize Samsung’s intent (original vowel replaced with anti-obscenity asterisk): “Windows updates … patch critical security flaws with alarming regularity. So if a manufacturer decided to disable Windows Update to favor its own crappy bloatware, that would be incredibly f*cked. Oh hey there, Samsung!”