My Favorite Things

Raindrops on roses
and butter on noodles
Cocoa in pie crust
and those who are truthful

Whipped cream that floats
like the clouds in my dreams
These are a few of my favorite things

When my life bites
When the pain stings
When I’m feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don’t feel so bad




















Rhyming is good for the brain. So, what are your favorite things?

Because chocolate


The smell of chocolate increases theta brain waves, which triggers relaxation.

Every second, Americans collectively eat 100 pounds of chocolate.

The inventor of the chocolate chip cookie sold the idea to Nestle Toll House in return for a lifetime supply of chocolate.

17. Chocolate gives you a more intense mental high and gets your heart pounding more than kissing does.

23. The film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was financed by Quaker Oats to promote its new Wonka Bar candy.

37. A 2004 study in London found that 70% of people would reveal their passwords in exchange for a chocolate bar.









images (1)




The Peace-Be-With-You Superpower

Even though I have an award-free blog, sometimes a friend will challenge me anyway. And on the few times that I’ve answered a challenge, I’m notorious for not following the rules. Some things never change. 🙂

Lisa wants to know:  Which or what super power would you want and why?

I don’t think humans were meant to have any kind of superpower. I have a feeling that if any of us were given a superpower, we’d somehow, I dunno, accidentally destroy the planet. (Not that we need superpowers to do that.)

But just because I’m a realist, that doesn’t mean I can’t play.

My first thought was that I’d like to be able to heal. Then I thought that I would specifically like to have the ability to see inside a person’s brain, find the areas that aren’t working, and fix them. Thinking further, I could easily imagine how this superpower could backfire, possibly creating more problems within the brain. After all, could any superpower be stronger than the human brain?

And now I’m back to my belief that humans shouldn’t have superpowers. If you think about it, we already have superpowers. Why do we need more? Oops, I forgot we were playing a game…

When I was young, I had to pretend to be Catholic at church every Sunday. At one point during the mass, the priest would direct us to turn to the person on each side of us, shake their hand and say, “Peace be with you.” The person would reply, “And also with you.” It would’ve been nice if people really meant it, instead of just saying it by rote.

I’ve decided that I’d like to have a Peace-Be-With-You superpower. I’d like the ability to create peace wherever I go, whomever I encounter. If another person has any bad or violent thoughts, with just one look from my tired, blue eyes, all those thoughts would disappear. Cease to exist. Poof! I would smile at the look of bafflement on people’s faces, then they would shake their heads, as if coming back to the present, and smile back at me.

My superpower would be transferable with each look, and so peace would then spread throughout the world, from person to person, city to city, country to country.

We would never have another war. And we would all work together to live happily ever after. The End.

And because I don’t follow the rules, I’m picking two superpowers. I would also like to be invisible, like Lisa, because I think it would be loads of fun. 🙂

(Photo taken by my sister — and cropped by me, #croptilyoudrop — at the 2013 Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.)

Everything is about Trump

I like science fiction and horror movies, maybe because it’s an escape into something that’s not real. After all, reality frequently sucks.

I recently watched a horror movie about a racist who buys some land and moves to a small town in North Dakota, where he attempts to build a white supremacist community. The movie is called Welcome to Leith and it was released in 2015. But it’s not a Hollywood movie — it’s a documentary.

At the beginning of the movie, I kinda laughed at the racists. They reminded me of children. Misfits looking for somewhere to fit in. Nerds who never figured out that being a nerd is cool. Instead, they believe that white power and hate is cool. And they believe in guns, violence, and revenge against anyone who stands up to them, even other white people.

One of the leaders, Craig Cobb, says he thinks he suffers from Asperger’s. He does seem to have a fixation with Hitler. Says when he was little, he looked just like one of Hitler’s sons. But I didn’t see many signs of mental illness in any of the racists. In fact, some of them were surprisingly smart, although there’s obviously something wrong going on in their brains.

What I found interesting was the lengths the townspeople went to in their attempts to get rid of these racists. I also learned that although the U.S. government used to keep track of all these terrorists, after 9/11, they pretty much stopped doing that. Now they only keep track of Islamic terrorists.

It’s hard to find a good movie these days. I’ve been on Netflix for almost two months and I’m already having a hard time finding things I want to watch. Welcome to Leith is a great movie. It’s got some awesome North Dakota scenery, shot beautifully. And there were even times during the movie when I felt sorry for the racists. But then one of them would open their mouth…

One thing I can’t help thinking about is the kids who grow up in a white-power environment. Talk about being born unlucky. With those people, you gotta believe in white power or else. No questions asked. Reminds me of some religions.

From Craig Cobb’s Wikipedia page: In 2015, Cobb attempted to purchase $10,000 worth of property in Antler, North Dakota, in an attempt to take over the town and rename it “Creativity Trump”, a reference to Donald Trump, whom Cobb says he admires.

Don’t be fooled

The new molecule targets the brain-mediated emotional component of pain. This allows it to kill pain just as well as morphine does, without the side effects of respiratory suppression and dopamine-driven addiction in the brain. (Regular painkillers target both the brain-mediated and reflexive response aspects of pain.) The new drug also causes less constipation and doesn’t affect spinal cord reflexive responses as traditional narcotics do, according to the study. The potential difference in addiction was shown in experiments involving mice…

Manglik estimates that it will take multiple years for the compound to be tested in humans, noting the importance of such trials to learn more about PZM21’s addictive properties and safety. “The real experiment for a lot of these things is going to have to happen in humans,” he said, adding that addiction is “really a human disease.” …

This drug kills pain as well as morphine does? Don’t be fooled…

“brain-mediated emotional component of pain”

I may not be a neurologist, but I can read between the lines. Researchers are trying to go around the main areas of the brain that deal with pain to target the area that deals with the “emotional component” of pain. It’s my understanding that this is how antidepressants can alleviate pain, along with other drugs prescribed off-label for pain, like anticonvulsants and antipsychotics. It’s also similar to drugs used to treat addiction.

On the Wikipedia page for this new drug (PZM21) under “See Also,” I found this (which looks like the same drug):

Notably, it has also been found to be more potent in models of chronic neuropathic pain than acute nociceptive pain…

As an agonist of the κ-opioid receptor, cebranopadol may have the capacity to produce psychotomimetic effects and other adverse reactions at sufficiently high doses, a property which could potentially limit its practical clinical dosage range…

Google definition: A drug with psychotomimetic actions mimics the symptoms of psychosis, including delusions and/or delirium, as opposed to just hallucinations…

And on the Wikipedia page for cebranopadol, I found a link to norbuprenorphine.

I wish the research community was on the right path in the study of pain, but as far as I’m concerned, they’re following paths dictated by the funding they receive, which is anti-opioid. (In other words, we’re fucked.)

(2010) Translational Pain Research: From Mouse to Man.

Chapter 15, Human Brain Imaging Studies of Chronic Pain

The advent of non-invasive human brain imaging technologies provided the opportunity for direct examination of the human brain. This occurred about 15 years ago with the related expectation that we were at the threshold of a revolution in our understanding of chronic pain. This expectation remains largely unfulfilled, although much has been published in the topic. Here we concentrate mainly on our own work in the topic, arguing in general that the subject of brain mechanisms of chronic pain remains in its infancy mainly because of a heavy emphasis in the field on studying nociception rather than chronicity of pain…

When doctors lie

“My doctor said I cannot be cured so there is no point in treating me for pain,” wrote one patient.

Cancer can’t be cured. Schizophrenia and asthma are also incurable. Then there’s AIDS.

The treatments for these medical conditions can also cause pain, including chronic pain. Why suffer through expensive, painful treatments when there is no cure? What kind of doctor would say there’s no point in treating cancer or AIDS? (Doctors suck.)

Yes, cancer and AIDS can be fatal. (Actually, being human is a fatal condition.) But chronic pain can take a long time to kill you, so the medical industry thinks the danger isn’t imminent. And I think chronic pain isn’t really considered a medical condition, like cancer.

When patients die from suicide or an overdose, it’s the patient’s fault. When a cancer patient dies, it’s the disease’s fault (or the fault of the medical industry). Because drug war.

But Lussier said her doctor was concerned that opioids would actually increase her sensitivity to pain, and informed her three months ago that she would get only three more monthly prescriptions for the drug.

If you suffer from chronic pain, your body is already sensitive to pain. Duh. Can opioids increase that sensitivity?

I suppose it’s possible, although it doesn’t seem very logical. It makes more sense to say that not treating chronic pain would increase a person’s sensitivity to pain. That’s why pain progresses from acute to chronic — you can’t suffer from chronic pain unless you’ve suffered from acute pain first.

Think of a dial for volume, zero to ten. Similar to the pain scale, each number represents a different level of pain. When you stub your toe or burn your finger, you’ve felt pain at the level of a 1 or 2. Let’s say a root canal or a broken bone would be a 4. Having a baby is like a 6, while cancer is around a 6+.

The purpose of this dial is not to rate a person’s pain — it’s to mark the different levels of pain you’ve been exposed to and have experienced. If you’ve never broken a bone, then your brain doesn’t know of or understand that level of pain. But once your brain has experienced pain at the level of a 6 or 7, there’s a greater chance that you will experience that level of pain in the future. It’s easier for your brain to reach that level after you’ve already reached it once.

While I’m focusing on physical pain for my pain dial, the same applies to mental pain and anguish. Unless you’ve experienced grief or suffered from Major Depressive Disorder, your brain can’t understand that level of pain. But once you do experience different levels of mental pain, it’s not hard for your brain to feel it again.

So, maybe the risk of developing chronic pain includes experiencing high levels of acute pain. Like if you were a gymnast or a football player. It’s no wonder women are more prone to chronic pain because so many of us have experienced the pain of labor. Like the risk of suffering from drug addiction climbs after someone experiences physical or mental trauma.

Where would the experience of chronic pain fall on this pain dial? It’s one thing to experience level 6 pain during labor, but that pain goes away.

Let’s say you have a toothache that registers around a 5 on the pain dial. After treatment, most if not all of that pain goes away. (Who could function with a constant toothache?) My TMJ causes a level 5 toothache in every one of my teeth. Does that mean my pain level is a 5? No, because TMJ is not the only thing that causes me pain. And because my pain is constant.

Constant/chronic pain should have a place on the pain dial, just like a broken bone or root canal. Because no matter what level of physical (or mental) pain you’re suffering from, when that pain is constant and incurable, the volume on your pain dial increases.

Intractable pain is not a symptom of my TMJ — not like addiction can be a symptom of trauma. No, intractable pain is a condition all on its own. Maybe I could even call it a cancer of the soul.

Doctors lie all the time. Of course they do. I know it’s hard to stand up for yourself when you feel like shit, and when you need and depend on your doctor. Just be prepared for when your doctor repeats information that’s biased and untrue. Don’t let him or her get away with it.

Rats do not equal humans

The team of scientists came to their conclusion after reviewing previous studies on sugar addiction, and finding some red flags. A big one was that most of these studies looked at rodents instead of humans. Even if rats love pizza as much as people, the similarities in brain function aren’t strong enough to base our responses to sugar on theirs. They’re a good starting point, being mammals and all, but yeah: rats do not equal humans…

Eating sugar releases feel-good dopamine, the neurotransmitter associated with reward in the brain. Drug use is also associated with a dopamine hit, but the scientists say that the way your brain responds to drugs like heroin and cocaine is different from how it responds to sugar. When the animals had sugar, their dopamine increased quickly, but soon returned to baseline, and stayed consistent even as they consumed more sugar. But in studies where the rodents were trained to give themselves cocaine, “the surge [of dopamine] does not return to baseline, but further increases after lever pressing and cocaine delivery.” Basically, you can reset yourself after a sugar high, whereas cocaine makes you want more and more and more…

Sugar addiction: the state of the science

European Journal of Nutrition (First Online: 02 July 2016)

We find little evidence to support sugar addiction in humans, and findings from the animal literature suggest that addiction-like behaviours, such as bingeing, occur only in the context of intermittent access to sugar. These behaviours likely arise from intermittent access to sweet tasting or highly palatable foods, not the neurochemical effects of sugar.

Are Opioids the Next Antidepressant?

Essentially, all the anti-depressants now in use affect a single group of neurotransmitters called monoamines and are likely to treat only specific subtypes of depression. Clinicians and scientists alike are in agreement that other pathways in the brain that control mood need to be explored. The opioids are one such pathway…

Opioids may also hold out hope for a devastating illness formally known as borderline personality disorder. Characterized by severe emotional dysregulation, patients with this disorder have feelings of loneliness, rejection, anger and sadness that can quickly overwhelm them. They struggle to maintain relationships and are terrified of abandonment. They are often substance abusers and — in fact — opioids are frequently their drugs of choice. In one study, 44 percent of patients seeking buprenorphine treatment for their opioid addiction were found to have borderline personality disorder. There are no Food and Drug Administration-approved medications for this illness…

Research looking at opioid receptors in patients with borderline personality disorder in comparison to control subjects has documented abnormalities in these patients’ opioids system. It is a finding that would help explain why many opioid abusers describe the sensation they get from using drugs not as “getting high” but as “getting right,” or as “feeling normal.”

It may seem counterintuitive and even dangerous to be considering the medicinal use of substances that are currently a scourge to our society. Yet opioids have a long history of being used to treat melancholia and other psychological disorders — right up until the 1950s, when the current group of antidepressants were discovered…

Thinking of you, Sgt. Brandon Michael Ketchum

DAVENPORT, Iowa – Sgt. Brandon Michael Ketchum, age 33, of Davenport, Iowa lost his battle with PTSD on Friday, July 8, 2016…

Here’s what Brandon experienced. Unedited and in his own words…

Brandon’s last post to OIF/OEF Veterans – Military Empire’s Facebook Page.

“Have any of you had a similar situation to my VA shitsh0w today? I went in to see my psych doc for an emergency appt due to some serious mental health issues I’ve been having. I requested that I get admitted to 9W 9psych ward) and get things straightened out. I truly felt my safety and health were in jeopardy, as I discussed with the doc. Not only did I get a NO, but three reasons of no based on me not being ‘fucked up enough.’ I wish I were making this up, but I’m sure I’m not alone. At this point, I say, ‘why even try anymore’ They gave up on me, so why shouldn’t I give up on myself? Right now, that is the only viable option given my circumstances and frame of mind. Insight and/or advice welcome. Tell it as it is, I’m thick skinned.”

Hours after writing this post, Brandon shot and killed himself…

Here is Brandon Ketchum‘s bio that I received from him in preparation for his going to Peru to participate in the veteran plant medicine healing. Rest in peace brother.

“My name is Brandon Ketchum and am a 33 y/o veteran. I grew up in a small town in Wisconsin and joined the military when I was 21 y/o. I served in the Marine Corps from 2004-2008 as a combat engineer, serving two tours in Iraq, locating and clearing road side bombs. I survived 5 “hard hits” or explosions on the vehicles we used to mitigate explosive obstacles. Unfortunately, not all of my brothers were as lucky as I was…

Since exiting the military I have faced many struggles with my mental health and also substance abuse. I was addicted to a high dose of narcotic pain meds, began abusing them and eventually started using heroin. In February 2015 I overdosed and nearly died but was saved by paramedics and coincidentally a police officer who I had once served in the military with.

I have been involved with the substance use disorder program at the VA since 2014 and will graduate the final portion of the outpatient program this Thursday, the 24th of March, 2016. Now that I have more control of myself and my life I have begun the daunting task of starting to piece my life back together after the traumas of three hard fought combat tours had taken a costly toll on nearly every aspect of my life.

The physical and mental symptoms of severe PTSD, depression, anxiety, and the inability to adapt back to the real world has been a tremendous obstacle for me, particularly going through nearly 25-30 different types of meds yet finding no solid gains or improvements. I am a firm believer in medical marijuana but unfortunately it is not yet legalized where I live…

Although I find a great deal of therapeutic value in woodworking, every day I am haunted by my past; I struggle to find meaning in the wars I waged against people I felt we didn’t protect or help…

Asking for help has only clouded my life with such a stigma that I have carried the ‘crazy’ or ‘broken’ labels, forcing me to have to fight for custody of my little girl that I love more than the world. I’m nearing some possible successes in some aspects of my life, directly as a result of my unwillingness to be discarded and dismissed by the country I swore to give my life for. But at the end of the day, I feel that I am also at war with myself and my ‘demons.’”

Is racism a mental health condition?

I watched someone die yesterday. I wondered about the thoughts going through his mind — the amount of pain he must have suffered — as his murderer stood outside his car window pointing a gun in his face. Was that the last thing he saw? As his girlfriend recorded his last breath. As a little girl, now scarred for life, watched from the back seat.

If this had happened in Iraq or Syria, that little girl could very well grow up to be a terrorist.

Then there’s Micah Johnson, the 25-year-old veteran who shot 12 police officers, murdering 5 of them. Here are the most informative articles on this tragedy so far:


I am a part of the Black Lives Matter movement. We did not ask for this. The protesters in Dallas did not want or ask for this.

However, and this is as uncomfortable for me to say as it may be for you to read, we should not be surprised by what he did.

Micah Johnson is the cake that this country has baked.

I’m not sure that the Micah Johnson tragedy was about race. I think it was about his mental health, and because he was black, his brain made it about race.

Micah was about the age in which schizophrenic symptoms can start to appear. Those who suffer from this condition are quite normal before symptoms begin. Everyone who knew him described him as quiet, yet he obviously had some kind of mental break, turning his home into a weapons storage unit. As if he was paranoid and felt threatened. But he also seemed to feel invincible (or suicidal), starting a war with the police. And in the middle of this war, after he was shot, the cops said Micah was laughing.

After a long showdown, during which he was reportedly laughing, singing and bragging about training for the attack…

I would imagine that it’s not too hard to radicalize someone who suffers from a mental health condition. And I assume that anything radical would be appealing and a temptation for someone with an unbalanced mind.

Is racism a mental health condition? How about gun addiction?


I asked Google, how long do taste buds live?

You probably already know that your taste buds have something to do with your food preferences, but you’ll likely be surprised to learn how deeply those preferences are rooted in your body’s survival instincts…

For example, sniffing a chocolate doughnut will send a scent message through your nostrils to one part of your brain, and eating it will send a different type of scent signal to a different part of your brain. It is the scent message from eating that combines with taste to create flavor. However, according to Dr. Bartoshuk, the scent message from smelling with your nose is not involved with flavor at all (your brain knows the difference between the two)…

Taste buds go through a life cycle where they grow from basal cells into taste cells and then die and are sloughed away. According to Dr. Bartoshuk, their normal life cycle is anywhere from 10 days to two weeks. However, “burning your tongue on hot foods can also kill taste buds,” she says. “But they grow right back, which is why the ability to taste doesn’t diminish with age.” Though Dr. Bartoshuk notes that taste remains robust as we get older, the ability to taste bitterness does decline in women with the onset of menopause…

When you bite into a luscious red tomato, you’re interpreting a dizzying array of signals—physical, neurochemical, memory-based—that ultimately help you decide whether you like tomatoes, or what combination of the five fundamental tastes (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, or umami) comes through for you. (There’s growing support for the idea that fat is a distinct taste, too; other candidates include soapy and metallic. Spicy heat, on the other hand, involves a chemical short-circuit in our thermal detectors, and isn’t considered a taste.) …

Brain scans of perfumers have found that the olfactory parts of their brains actually grew more developed as they got older, not the other way around, as with most people. That suggests that actively differentiating aromas and seeking out new ones may help reverse the normal effects of aging on the sense of smell. You may, in other words, be able to teach yourself to get more flavor from food as you get older…

Myth:  Eating spicy food damages your taste buds.

Fact:  The substance capsaicin is found in spicy foods and works by binding to pain receptors in the brain, sending a hot, burning signal to the body. While they can be temporarily damaged by extreme spice or temperatures, taste buds grow back every two weeks, so it’s generally nothing to worry about…

Chili Peppers Could Free Us From Opioids

Sometimes the media cracks me up, like with this headline. Do you know how long the medical industry has been promising a breakthrough for the treatment of pain with chili peppers? I can’t be sure, but I think it’s decades.

“When we talk about chronic pain, like chronic low-back pain, physicians feel like they only have one bullet in their toolbox that works for many, many patients,” says Michael Oshinsky, program director for pain and migraine at the National Institutes of Health, about opioids.

Do you think doctors feel that way because it’s true? Like, duh.

The pharma industry has struggled to come up with alternatives. No fewer than 33 experimental medicines for chronic pain went into clinical trials from 2009 to 2015, and all failed, Oshinsky says…

You can’t search for an alternative treatment for pain by trying to circumvent another problem, addiction. (Some people even believe that the quickest way between two points is a straight line.)

It appears that Big Pharma (working with the medical industry) is looking in the wrong direction. Don’t ask me what the right direction is, because I don’t know. But I do know that looking for ways to beat addiction during the treatment of pain is not a direct route to finding new ways to manage pain. Because 90% of people who suffer from pain do not need treatment for addiction.

A brain on chronic pain is not the same as a brain that suffers from addiction and some level of pain. Those who suffer from addiction have different wires crossed. Their brains react differently to opioids. Treating pain with drugs that focus on addiction will only help a very small percentage of pain patients. I think methadone and bupe have been around long enough to prove that fact.

The problem with narcotics is that in treating pain they affect an area of the brain that registers intense pleasure…

What’s the opposite of pleasure? Pain. And just like there are two sides of a coin, the areas of the brain that deal with pleasure and pain are the same ones — the same coin. These areas of the brain do the same work. They work so closely together that some people feel pain just like it’s pleasure, and vice versa. Even the very few people who are unable to feel pain don’t live a life of pleasure.

Centrexion’s drugs are designed to target pain directly, without triggering the brain’s reward system…

So, yeah, try to target pain without going through the pleasure/reward system of the brain… I’m no expert, but I don’t think it’s possible. Well, perhaps it would be more accurate to say that we already have these drugs, like aspirin and NSAIDs, which come with their own risks and lack of effectiveness.

You should eat chili peppers. Not only do they taste good, but they’re good for you. Because they work as an anti-inflammatory, they can relieve pain. Just like aspirin. And by the way, just like decongestants and antihistamines. But these drugs do not target pain directly — they’re not really painkillers.

Reducing hormones to treat pain

Before kickoff on game day, in NFL locker rooms all over the country, players wait in line to drop their pants. We call it the T Train.

I play for the Baltimore Ravens… The T Train is nothing more than a bunch of really large guys waiting to pull their pants down to get shot in the butt with Toradol, a powerful painkiller that will help them make it through the game and its aftermath.

Instead of an injection, some players opt for an oral form of Toradol. The effects are the same, though, and can last through the next day. Some guys don’t feel any pain for two days. Of course, that’s the point of these drugs — they block out the pain and reduce inflammation. But they also temporarily mask injury. That’s not a good thing if you get hurt during a game — you might need to address your injuries right away. But you feel nothing, so you do nothing…

When I was playing college ball at Virginia, I tore my shoulder up in a game against UConn in 2007. I was blocking Dan Davis, a defensive tackle who had been my high school teammate in Plainfield, N.J. At some point in the game I had hit Dan and felt something shift in my shoulder — but there was no immediate pain. Why would there be? I had gotten a T-shot before kickoff. The team doctors examined my battered shoulder on the sideline. My labrum was destroyed. I played the rest of the year while being treated with a combination of pharmaceuticals and physical therapy. When the season was over, my labrum was surgically repaired and I began a steady course of opioids and anti-inflammatories…

I know that I signed up to play one of the most physically demanding sports on the planet, and I love this game. But I can’t ignore the facts. The NFL and its athletes are not immune to the opioid epidemic in our country. Indeed, retired NFL players are more likely to misuse opioids than the general population because of unavoidable and recurring chronic pain. Football players also have a high risk of developing brain diseases such as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) due to repeated head trauma suffered on the field. Given all this, it’s little surprise that retired NFL players misuse prescription painkillers at a rate more than four times that of the general population. There has to be a better way. There is a better way.

On March 9, 2016, I became the first active NFL player to openly advocate for the use of cannabinoids (medical marijuana) to treat chronic pain and head injuries…

What is Toradol?

Toradol (ketorolac) is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). Ketorolac works by reducing hormones that cause inflammation and pain in the body. Toradol is used short-term (5 days or less) to treat moderate to severe pain.

Cannabis is also an anti-inflammatory, but I can’t tell you how it actually does that. But I don’t think that cannabis works by “reducing hormones.”

And I’ll just add that it’s not only football players who suffer from head injuries — it’s also veterans. And I think you’d be surprised at the number of average folks who also suffer from head injuries.