October, 2010

Robot Warriors

Monday, October 25th, 2010

This is going to be a reactionary post.  It may not be well informed.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2010/oct/24/nasa-robots-on-patrol?CMP=EMCGT_251010&

So we have robots on patrol eh?  Well paintballs and pepper spray may be harmless, (though as I’m hypersensitive to flavour and smell it could quite literally kill, but I’m at the far end of the curve), but bullets are not, and it seems as though there will be a time shortly when robots are armed.  The Guardian says…

Before you scoff, however, take note that other, more fearsome robot soldiers are also on the way. Israel, for instance, is developing its own version, which goes by the name of the Guardium (no relation). This machine, which looks like an angry tractor, is being built by a company called G-Nius, and will also be highly autonomous, with similar features that enable it to move independently and shout at people. Indeed, it is reported to have been used on Israel’s borders already, and includes the potential for a live machine gun that can be programmed to return fire.

This means, to me, that there will be an autonomous thing on the surface of our world that we, we, have made, that has no moral value, no value at all except that of territory, that can kill people indiscriminately.

Why are we allowing this?

You see I know something about computing and Artificial Intelligence, (AI); one of the things I know is that the idea of intelligence combines many factors about environment, intent and evolution, and moral value.  This factors are not all present in practically any robot design today, there is only intent, and possibly environment.  On my undergraduate degree we were asked, once, to compare what we could do to what we should do.  For us it was in relation to security and banking; we saw that banking sites could be broken or invaded by many means, (This is why I don’t bank on the web, I do shop on the web), we could do that, should we do it?  No.  We should know about it so if we get a job in banking security, we know what the holes are.

This is known in the trade as being a “White Hat.”  There are “Grey Hats”, (In my secret heart I count myself among them, but I am not), who hack things and report them to firms because they like hacking things, but have no criminal intent, even though technically what they do is initally illegal.  They are more useful than the insiders working for companies directly, because they do things that are outside the system.  You can see that “Black Hats” do these things for gain, personal gain, or mischief, or any number of other reasons, but not for the benefit of others.

In this context it’s difficult to place these robots, are they programmed for the benefit of others?  Yes.  Should we be placing an autonomous or semi-autonomous device that recognises enough of its environment to kill humans in the wild, possibly with no intervention on the part of a human operator?  No.

No. No. No.

Some may ask, what is the difference between putting  soldier with a gun in the field to guard a stretch of fence and a robot doing the same thing?

Well for one thing, a soldier is human being with all the environmental, developmental, social and moral baggage that goes with it.  I know that soldiers often have to be, well, de-humanized, because it is a hard thing to kill someone, just to shoot someone is hard, that is why these situations are stressful, because being human is to be around humans, and to know and empathise with other humans, if we empathise too much we cannot take life, which is occasionally necessary, because there is conflict; but we have a duty to minimise this loss of life.  This stress, this reluctance of people to take life is why soldiers will often shoot away from a living target, (I can’t quote the study because I cannot find it, but this is not an academic article, so you will have to take it on faith.)

(You only have to look at a news article like this: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-10717185 to see that empathy and feeling fail sometimes.  The Isralis shoot at the Palestinians because the Palestinians shoot at the Isralis and so it continues, when I’m pretty sure that IN FACT most (99%) Palestinians and Isralis just want to get on with life, get the bins collected, do their shopping go to school, chat in a café without fear of getting shot or blown up.  There is a territory problem, don’t understand it, but surely there should be a better more peaceful way of figuring it out?  I know that people get very angry, anger leads to hate, hate leads to fear, and well, you get the idea…)

This autonomous machine has no morals, no values, no conscience, no empathy.  That’s fine if it’s just paintballs and pepper spray, but when it’s bullets, rubber or otherwise, then someone will die just because, well just because they were getting their football.

That isn’t acceptable to me.  We should all be rising up in protest, we should all be appalled, but maybe that won’t happen until this thing, having arrived with a whimper, goes bang, and someone dies at the hand of no-one but a machine.

_____________________

A little footnote.

Everything I have just said applies to landmines too.  The only difference is that they don’t move.

_____________

As usual I’m a bad proof reader, look out for missed negations.

The Lego Habit

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

Just a quick one.

I know that logic fails me sometimes but this seemed noteworthy.

I was saying yesterday, for reasons that are best left, that I would not develop a drug habit, with the associated criminality to feed it, say burglary, because I don’t do drugs, (apart from obviously, caffeine), but I might feed a Lego habit.

Obviously I’d feel guilty, but I imagine that if I fell into the life of a hardcore Lego user, I have to feed the habit at least once a day with new bricks, and this would be terrible strain on my finances, which would mean that I would have find the habit with dark nefarious activities that paid well; “I’m sorry to rob you, man, but I got a habit to feed, a Lego habit.  Gimme all yer money.”  I’d probably have to graduate to knocking over garages, because people don’t carry that much cash any more, and for really big sets I’m afraid it would have to be poorly maintained security van with scowling men who get paid minimum wage to risk their necks for filthy moohlah.

I’m become a hardened criminal with a huge stash of Lego in a lock up somewhere, spending lonely nights building the latest Star Wars Giant Model, or taking pictures of my minifigs and posting them on the internet anonymously to show other hardcore Lego criminals that I’m doing better than them.

I’d probably get caught sooner or later as new forensic techniques trace minute quantities of Lego plastic adhering to my skin get left at the scenes of crimes.  They trace my Lego DNA, made of Duplo (as @iskandarv once did at our house in an idle moment, until then we didn’t think it was possible to build a double helix out of Lego, the man is a genius), and bang me up in isolation in case I brick the other prisoners with improvised Lego weapons…

You get the idea.

#lovelyGF pointed out that I could get banged up for the lesser crime of obtaining Lego by stealing it directly from shops.

That hadn’t actually occurred to me.

STEALING from a SHOP?  Yurg, no thanks, someone might see.  I wouldn’t be able to shop there again!  I might get barred from shoe shops!

Maybe I’ll just get the boys to buy me some for Christmas.

I’ve cooled on a life of crime.

Why men don’t get up

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

In contrast to this morning’s post here is some audio I recorded a few years ago.  It’s not brilliant, and I should redo it, but nevertheless…

http://www.ourcafe.org.uk/why-men-dont-get-up/

Dad

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

Herein is a piece of my life, some of it may make harrowing reading, and it may not be suitable for minors, or people of a sensitive disposition.  It’s about my Dad and my relationship with him, and as such is personal, but there may be lessons to be learned here.

My Dad died on 1st November 2005 after what I think was about a six month fight with Prostate Cancer.  He chose not to continue treatment, which was distressing for him, and he died in his own bed about 8 in the morning, as far as I know.

I’ll go backwards.  You need to know some things.  I’m called Friday because I changed my name, ALL of my names when I was 21.  It is who I am.

I last saw my father during a dash to Scotland, far northern Scotland where he was living with my Mum and my Uncle in an old mill.

My last words to him were “I love you Dad.”  It cost me, because I still do not know, even now if they were true words, but he was a dying man, and I knew well that I was seeing him for the last time, and I could not be so cruel as to make him believe that I did not.  I got a few minutes alone with him at the last, because my wife, as I was still married at the time, intervened with my family.  Until that point, I was not trusted, for reasons I have yet to discern properly, with him, to speak to him alone.  Maybe it was because of our history; for all the punches and kicks and beatings I endured as a child, I never backed down, never gave in, not once did I ever say or do the things he wanted me to simply because he wanted it.

Why would I say it, is it because I’m better?

We have a duty, I feel, to be better than our parents, our greatest gift should be to see our children surpass us; as in some important aspects my boys surpass me.  (For another time).

But no, not because I am better, I’m not sure I am; but because he reached out to me.  At the last I understood that he wanted me to be proud of him…

__________________

I learned to read by myself, essentially.  My father could not read and write, and my mother’s vision was so poor that she could not see anything I was reading; but these factors pale compared to the idea that I was a natural reader.  I started reading for myself at the age of 1½.  How do I know this to be true?  Because in those arguments that families have about what is right, the truth comes out, and the boasting Dad to the new wife of his eldest son was corrected by the realistic Mum, who said:-

“Don’t be foolish, Dad,” in the habits of parents a a generation ago, they often called each other this because it was a title as much as anything, “Don’t be foolish, no child reads at 1, he was six months older than that before he started reading off the jars.”

Naturally I investigated this; I could read most books by age 3, and newspapers, including broadsheets.  Apparently I was insatiable.  My vocabulary was broad, much broader than it is now, and I would even solve crosswords that my Mum who WAS very literate, could not solve.

My dad, in his dying days bade me look at his kitchen.  I didn’t get it, but he was insistent, he used up a great deal of strength to insist.  My wife made me go and look.

My father, who has been a lifelong car mechanic, a very good one, a sprayer, a body repairer; in fact a car restorer when the occasion called for it who was matchless in his attention to detail, his care and love of the vehicles he was working on, had turned in the last three years of his life into a master woodworker.  I have worked informally with such people, I know what to look for, even though I have not the skill to do it.

He built a new kitchen not from units and sections and chipboard covered with veneer; but with the care of an artisan making the doors and panels from Oak, raw Oak one step away from the tree.  In fact, when my Uncle showed me the raw material, it was still tree shaped, just cut into 4 inch thick planks and dried out.  My Dad and Uncle had made their own drying room and dried the Oak out in a year, rather than the four it should take.  (This is why hardwood is expensive, it must be kiln dried or air dried, if it is air dried then it takes about a year per inch of the thinnest dimension, but I’m not an expert, so YMMV).

He plumbed, rewired and built the entire kitchen from scratch, (it needed it, including floor), in six months.

I examined it, because I wasn’t sure what I was looking at.  It was the work of an artisan.

He made the bed he died in, in the same way.

This is a man who couldn’t read and write anything except his name.

I had surpassed him in this respect by the time I was three, in fact, by that time in literary terms I had surpassed every adult I knew.

So I was an arrogant little shit at times.  It might have been nice if I hadn’t felt so patronised all the time.

________

An aside.  I didn’t learn to write until I was 12, it took me nearly three agonising weeks to learn, and I count myself as semi-literate now because I barely write anything down in handwriting.  It’s an essential skill, but sorely neglected because we type and tap.  As a programmer and technophile I really do this, handwriting isn’t very valuable for me on a day to day basis.  When I need it though, I really need it.

________

I knew my Dad couldn’t read from age 3 and I was required to keep this knowledge a secret.  That was hard. It was an adult responsibility in the hands of a child, a child who knew things, (I knew where babies came from and how they were conceived from age four, Encyclopaedias are a great source of knowledge; what I didn’t know was the social complications involved in procreation, because I was too young to understand, or even know what I couldn’t understand when I read books about human social interaction and mores.

Dad was a control freak, and a very violent man, with a violent temper and a low frustration threshold.  (I have that, see me code, I’m easily annoyed by things that don’t work when I think they should).

He thought discipline came from a bloody good hiding, and wouldn’t take any lip from us.  Well, that wouldn’t do for me, I was at one and the same time a sensitive child but FULL of lip.  Because I knew stuff.

I was curious about the world I wanted to know everything, right now, and he was not well read, well educated, or patient enough to explain to a child what the world was doing.

And he was a big man, as a car mechanic he was stocky and his muscles has muscles.  He did things manually, including, on more than occasion picking up a Mini, yes, the car, and turning it around in a confined space.  Little wonder then that he had perennial backache.  I have seen him like up an engine with one hand, it was about to crush my Uncle because a chain failed, I have seen him catch a car that was about to fall off the end of a ramp, it was about to crush HIM.

It was with this strength and this anger that he “corrected” us.

BUT….

This was not his parenting failure, though it may seem strange to say it.  While the physical punishments were damaging, time softens these so that they are not the focus of memory and angst.

It was the possession.  We were, including Mum, HIS.  His chattel, his possessions; a position I never gave in to, and the cause of more of his anger and spite, and yes there was spite there too, than anything else.  The beatings meant nothing, I was not his possession and he could never understand that.

___________

This is a shame really, because it colours all of my memories of him, and poison my relationships with the rest of the family, wherein I don’t any longer have any contact with them, because they cannot accept who I am, my name, the way I dress, how my relationships are; and I cannot take the inevitable emotional damage any more, so I stay away.

And yet, I say, it is a shame, because I never went to his funeral, because I was barred, mis-trusted for I might “say the wrong thing, or harp on about the past”, so I never got that closure, and I never got to say the important thing, the thing that would have made it ok.

____________________________

My Dad was great artisan, his ability to turn his hand to anything that was mechanical, metal or wood or plaster, was matchless.  He wanted me to be proud of what he could do and in his dying days this was important to him; more important I think than anything.  He wanted me in particular to be proud because he saw that at the age of 3 I had surpassed him and it galled him because he was a proud man who wanted more than anything to be sufficient to anything as head of his household.  He told me, at the last, during those few private moments I had with him, that he was proud of me that I returned to study, (my undergraduate degree), that I was doing at last what I should always have done, that it was the right thing for me, and that he hoped it would go well.  I was proud of what he could do, irrespective of anything else, I was always amazed and awed at his skill.  I have never had those skills, (though I am “handy” and can do things that I would be able to, were I not his son), and I was always aspiring to be that person, the one people turned to because he knew things.

I know that despite his behaviour, my good opinion was the thing he waited for before he died.  I know now, that he loved his eldest son.

________________________________

I have left out many facts that might be considered pertinent and I shall not apologise for it; but you may wish to know that were essentially estranged since I changed my name, so for 20 odd years.  I saw him four times before his death, and on two of those occasions I left prematurely because the visits did not go well.

Facebook

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

I loathe FaceBook.

I suspended my account the other day after FB allowed people to sign other people up to groups without their consent.  FB already secure their information behind their Walled Garden, much to everyone’s chagrin; so advertisers and games get access to information but we do not.  This is breaking down, see for example this article: http://www.downloadsquad.com/2010/03/05/yahoo-can-now-import-your-facebook-contacts/ which is reproduced in other places on the web.

I actually did this, but contact management is a complex issue, and anyway, what I am I going to do, email 300 people?  No.

No, I’m not going to send out mass emails, (even BCC’d which it seems many people don’t know how to do, even companies), every time I want to say something.

Not many of my friends have me on Twitter, though a few do, and they don’t tweet often those that do…

Though I should say that most of my Twitter contacts are people I know or know through friends and I love to hear from them, they are web friends in a way that I have previously avoided.

(Let me just say why, as an aside.  I invariably have a female avatar or representation, see further back in my blog history for why; and I find that on more than one occassion in the past, when we were all a bit more anonymous on the web; after finding out that I’m a guy, some fundamentalist religious type has told me that I’m a sinner or some such.  This usually follows an ASL request which I always deny.  [ASL, Age Sex Location].  Often abused because I wouldn’t ever get into that, in particular I recognised that anyone wanting that before talking to me on the web was looking for a girlfriend; I’m not interested in that, and it used to annoy them that I recognised it and said so…  anyway).

Anyway point is that I’m not going to send a massive pile of emails every time I want to say something, I’m a bit crap at blog entries, though @iskandarv seems to think I should carry on, (respect to you my friend), and a lot of the people I know are not on Twitter.

FaceBook has become the killer app of social networking.

Now, Rory Cellan Jones seems to think that we should be owning our space because the mass of data that is collected about us even when we’re not on a given network, is so massive that any network knows something about us, and FaceBook is  the primary example of this as demonstrated in this article:- http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-11527201 How FaceBook knows your friends.

FB already knows everything about me.  If I’m not participating I’m not controlling my space.

I have the AniaKovas identity all over the web for precisely this reason.  I’ve even started a blog for it, mostly to do with my online MMORPG, (see http://www.perfectworld.com) which I have not done much lately because I have been, well, finishing my Dissertation and doing webby stuff.  And the Star Map.

_____________

BIG ASIDE

Dun duh Daaaahhhhhhhhhh!

Anyone on Twitter already knows this, but I can’t resist, well blowing my own trumpet.

I got a Distinction overall in my Masters, with a Prize too, for which reason I’m still not clear about, worth about £800, (I’d rather actually have the £800, but the Kudos is important too, more important actually).

My Dissertation wasn’t that great actually; feedback is that it was innovative and sound right up until the conclusion where I trailed off a bit…

This was my analysis too. There are reasons for it to do with framing the conclusion in the right terms.  I wasn’t completing a report, (which was how I actually framed it).

Ah, there were a few practical issues as well, normally I get #lovelyGF to help me proof read, because like nearly everyone I’m a bad proof reader of my own work; but she had to be away at a conference that week for two days, and then later at a tutorial, (I still can’t remember now if she was giving it or receiving it); so I had kids and house and blah blah blah…

Oh well, these things are sent to try us.

Point is, I can always do better, and expect to do so because I have been around the block a few times, and know a couple of things.  I’m an indifferent student really, but I get better the higher up I am.

(So I left school with just three “O” levels because I wasn’t interested in anything else, went to college later on to do Five “A”levels AND work, but had to give it up in the second year because it wouldn’t all fit, failed Physics, Maths and Computing at Liverpool because being amongst people after two years in the sticks was just too exciting, and I’m used to breezing what I DO bother to study.  And undergraduate physics is BORING.  I grew up with book on Quantum Physics and have watched the changed as they have happened.  I can no longer pretend to understand all of it, String Theory did my head in).

I work hard at programming, because I never learned Logic until I went Bangor University and got a Computer Science degree, and realised that the thing missing from my life, and practically everyone else’s life was a good grasp of mathematical fundamentals; not arithmetic, which you are either good at or not, MATHEMATICS.  (Trouble is, I can do arithmetic, but the fundamental properties of numbers are not my friend, so I have to work hard at mathematics; but it makes computing so much easier, once you get #lovelyGF to understand that division is a sin.  Fractions are not).

Point is, the more educated I get, the better I do at it.

_____________________________

Where was I?

I am Ania and Friday.  Some people have even called me Ania to my face, but that’s really missing the point; it’s not offensive, but in life, when I am face to face, I cannot be her, because I have a face like John Prescott on dope.  It’s naturally miserable unless I am actively smiling or Laughing, which I do a fair bit unless I am programming.  I say “Girl Inside”, because she is an inner me.

Back to FaceBook.

Thing is, this practice I make, of owning my online space, I have abandoned it if I am not there.

The really important reason, though, the overriding reason, the one which drives me back despite my criticism and constant abuse of FB, and I do swear about it a lot, is that my friends are on it, and I miss being able to talk to them and know what they are doing, even when they are not talking directly to me.

I miss my fwiends.

So I’m going to sign in again.

So much for principles.

Drifting

Sunday, October 10th, 2010

No park benches anymore.

We don’t stop when we can be seen, there is dark danger in that; roaming gangs drift in and out of trees, always seeking, always hungry.  I’m not old, but I’m wary, I dodge suspicious boxes, my shoes are soft, soundless.  It is the faint squeak on lino of survival, out in the street they don’t hear me coming.

Every faint rustle is a warning, a danger, and alarm.  I look about me, glasses like shields strapped to my head, little mirrors a trick taught by survivors.  Padded steel down each arm, broken many times, but no more; shin-guards on my legs,  and, yes, a breastplate, because the hurts too.  They don’t see any of it though under my great coat, I’m always hot, even on the coldest of days, a faint patina of sweat making me look tense, edgy.  Even my “friends” are cautious around me, I’m “that girl”; the one who can defend herself, but don’t get, as they say, too close.

My supplier is close, I can smell him, or at least his wares; a faint aroma of manufacturing around him, he’s dealing now I know, but I won’t approach yet, not until the crowd has gone; Bob may be around, and I should at least protect him from that, for the favours.

An urchin eyes me from a  bush, looking over me like a professional, which he probably is; he sees the rucksack bound to my front, slim.  Some people make the mistake of trying a weekly run, lessen their exposure, but they get caught, stripped bare.  They’re stupid, can’t move fast, can’t get back to the sanctuary.  What are they doing out anyhow, live on the gruel, you won’t die, what do you need more for?

What do I need more for?  Because I’m a dealer too right?  And I have to buy when I can, or they’ll stop producing, and I can always sell it on.

I’ve worked my way south, it’s true what they say, people are more honest up north, but that just means that now, everyone knows they’re out for themselves.  Down south, well, you can at least take advantage of people’s delusions, their pretensions of normality.  Some fool even runs a shop still, well, I say a fool; no-one rash enough to try anything has ever been seen again and Bob doesn’t take an interest.  “It’s their own risk.”

Huh, risk.  I remember, when I was the one in charge of risk.  Don’t trip, don’t fall, assess, lessen.  Now look at me.  Shopping is a risk to life.

The urchin falls back into the undergrowth, aware that I’m not a good risk; that’s good, fewer confrontations; but bad, better armed confrontations by the more desperate.  Guns are illegal, but no-one cares any more, so more people are carrying. Not me, I tried a gun, it broke my wrist.  I reply on other tech; tazer, home made.  It’s saved me, and those boys, they learn real quick now.

There’s a tree down in the road.  It’s big, I can’t climb over it.  I know there are watchers here, I can feel their eyes, seeing what I’ll do.

I can’t lose face, be a victim.

This tree, it’s not safe around the edges though, the darkness is what gets you; it’s their territory, you can’t see and they strip you bare.  The older ones, they want to do, other things, but the young ones are hungry.  I pull out the torch.

It’s bright, and I wind it and wind it so that it does not run out.  These days they spend so much time in the dark and the sewers that bright light, it’s a weapon, but it never lasts long, the pulse saw to that. Nothing electrical works well any more, just the basics, light heat.  Communications, things of the past.  They said we were dead without it, but we’re not dead, not yet.

I pick my way around the root, pulled out by the wind, and a fence, a narrow little channel, and that’s when they come.

“What’cha got lady?”  They’re young, younger than normal, they’re being trained up.

“Nothing for you sonny.  Move along, before you get hurt.”  I earn a grin for my warning.  Pity, it’s the only one they’ll get.  My little glasses mirror catches a glimpse of movement.  “Tell your little friend behind me to stop.”  I say, putting a darkness into my voice.  Their hearts are racing, adrenaline pumping their bravado higher.

“Give us the bag lady, and maybe we’ll let you go.”

“Unlikely.”  There’s a snigger from behind, and I realise that this path was the rash one, I should have known better.  Always take the least likely route.

“Alright, missus, you’ve got us bang to rights, we’re not gonna let you go, but it could hurt a lot less.”

“Come and get it then lads,” I say hoping to entice one of them into range.

“No way, missus, we know about you, you got armour.  Throw it over here.”  I smile in what I hope is an unnerving way.

“Well boys, we’re at an impasse, because I’m not throwing anything anywhere.”  There is silence for a moment, then a click, and I know their bravado is not baseless, they’ve been given an edge; that’s why they’re willing to take me on first ball out of the bag.

“Well, well, well, ” I say pressing for time, “playing with the big boys already?”

“We know about you, ALL about you, missus.”

“That’s miss.”  I look grim.  The whole thing is looking grim.  One of the lads has a shovel.

“Miss then, we don’t mind.  Is that what you want on the headstone?  And cooking pot?”

I know now, there is no chance here, it’s me or them.  They’ve raised the game…

No cheese for me today.

@chickenprincess

Friday, October 8th, 2010

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Or shall I just hope you have an air conditioner,
Because you live in California, or somewhere near,
Where the sun always shines,
And it’s not foggy,
Like here,
Right now.

Creepy but Useful

Friday, October 8th, 2010

I have decided that I shall start an occasional series called Creepy but Useful, to illustrate how strange our lives are in the modern world.  It reflects my belief that there is discord between our various desires, even within ourselves.

Creepy

My car registration is on so many databases that anyone can look it up and know all about it…

Useful

…and know exactly what parts to get for it.

Star Map pre-alpha up – Progress

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

Just to say that you should look at the map at Star Map which takes you to sector (10,10). The map is NOT TO BE RELIED UPON, as the algorithm WILL change before I do a full release. This is just is how that I’m doodling around with it and not just talking about it.

It may interest you to know that there is no database now. The whole of the map is generated using reproducible pseudo-random seeded sequences, to be specific, a Perlin Noise generator. Since there is much calculation involved, the final thing will take some processing time. This is an issue on a shared server, so much of my time is spent optimising the calculation sequences, for example, division is a sin; it has to go.

So anyway, there it is. The map shows blue dwarfs to red giants. The whole thing a is a probability field based on an image generated from a photo of a galaxy, chopped up in to 8×8 hex sectors, that look taller than they are wide because the hexes interlock.

Roleplayers often use hexes because they interlock and are better than square because they avoid the √2 problem, (A unit square has diagonal √2 which messes up quick and dirty distance calculations).

Cross posted on CoActionDrama and StarDark

Drug User

Friday, October 1st, 2010

Hi my name’s Friday, and I, like literally billions of people in the world, am a drug user  I’m still using, socially and on my own; my girlfriend funds my habit, because I’m a student, (hoping for a job soon), I do it daily, and I feel bad without it, and yeah, sudden withdrawal is bad, real bad.  Strangely, my drug isn’t illegal, and it’s available in much higher concentrations that come in pill form, I don’t use those.

<sigh> I might as well drop the other shoe now, my drug of choice is Caffiene, yes, I’m an inveterate coffee drinker.  I’m dropping the other shoe here because this is after all a public blog and I don’t really want anyone to think I’m taking drugs as such.

Thing is, I’ve been a caffeine user for a long time now, and I say this, rather than “Coffee Drinker” because I do actually use caffeine.  And we were explaining things about drugs to the kids last night, and it got me thinking again about how I use caffeine.

These days I’m not up without a cup of coffee, made inevitably in a French Press, I don’t do instant any more, and not, without being indelicate, functional, (people over 40 will know what I mean), without that second cup.  It gives the old body a kick start in the morning. It also means that I have to be up and doing two hours before work.  I need that caffeine start, because as a long term user I’m always one under, I need my fix to function.  I am an addict.  The difference between caffeine and hard drugs is that I can , with sufficient provocation and mindfulness, regulate what I’m doing.

Effects

Oh you don’t want to be down the pub with me after six pints of Cola.  It’s great amongst students, but while I can still calm down and get in the car,  in company I am terribly nervous and excited; and the bad thing is that while I am aware of it, I can’t stop it.  I will say the most extraordinary things, (driven by my testing of comedy on my student and ex-student friends), simply because I’m hyped on caffeine.  (This is why I often drink fruit juice at the pub.  I don’t do alcohol at the pub generally because I’m driving.  Drive OR alcohol, never the twain shall meet)

That’s alright I suppose, it’s not too bad, but there are darker place you can go on caffeine.  I have Type 2 Diabetes, so balance in eating and general diet is very important for me, I’ll probably write  another rant sometime about how everyone is an instant expert of Diabetes, they;re not, but not for now.  As I was saying, diet, balance, control over that is happening to my body is very important; caffeine often takes that away, as an appetite suppressant it makes me not want to eat, but since I have a very sweet tooth, I have sweetners in it, which drive hunger.  I should give them up.

That’s now.  Most days I drink tea, because I’m rarely more than half an hour without a drink, after the early morning kick start, because I don’t actually want to be hyped up all day.

One reason is that once I’m like that, highly caffeinated all day,  I fall off the plank I’ve been walking all day and crash when I stop for more than an hour.  Really crash, falling asleep now crash.  It can take a whole day to recover from that.  Finishing my Master’s Dissertation was like that.  Still getting over it.

…and you can’t stop caffeine cold turkey if you’re vulnerable to it.

To show this I have to tell you that my dealer, when I was young, was my Gran.  I’ve been doing Caffeine since I was five.  She had some Camp Coffee with Chicory, and I liked it with a lots of sugar, so, since I was “favoured grandchild”, (don’t get me started in on how psychologically unhealthy that was), I got some every day, three or four times  a day.  As a child who was already very particular about texture, it actually meant that I ate practically nothing, but was completely hyper all the time.  I read a lot, I mean a lot, so I read fast!  Three of four books a day for years, and then out cycling and usual sibling rivalry.

I was also, very volatile.  For another time.

By the time I was eleven I was doing ten cups of Coffee a day.  By the time I was fourteen I was doing 15 to 20; I hadn’t slept at all since I was seven, though I had to rest every night for two or three hours at least.

At fourteen I was in the army cadets, and had been since I was eleven and went to a real army camp for two weeks up at Otterburn.  It was a rare privilege.  At this time I didn’t touch tea, but at this camp there was no coffee at all, as far I recall, at least I wasn’t getting any.  I was going cold turkey whether I like it or not.

At the end of the first week, I woke up on the Saturday, and in my little glowy withdrawal world, I couldn’t see anyone, anyone at all.  I couldn’t hear or see any living thing.  So I got dressed, and went for a look around.  No-one.

I heard a truck, I was in the middle of the road, so I had to dodge out the way pretty quick, as the driverless truck nearly mowed me down.  Scary.  Scary? I was terrified!

I looked around some more, and strange winds grabbed at me and buffeted me around, there was moaning and shouting as if from very far away, but I could see no-one.  I went to get some binoculars, and had to kick a locked door in to look around, but I put them back afterwards, (I lose things easily by just “putting them down” and then I’ve “had them in my hand right here and now it’s lost”).

I got some food from the NAAFI, though I had to dodge pans and stuff that were floating around.  Some landrovers nearly mowed me down, I learned to avoid the road, and in particular seemed to follow me, but I disabled it my taking the keys out, those strange winds whistled through the vehicle and buffeted me again.

…and then, most strange and scary, the winds caught me up and three me down on a bunk and tied me down so I could move.  I can’t even describe how scary that was, so I’m not going to try.

Eventually, because there nothing else to be done, I fell asleep.

When I woke up, there were LOTS of people around, asking very peculiar questions indeed. It seems I had spent the entire previous day hallucinating, hallucinating that all the people were gone.

Hi, my name is Friday.  I’m a caffeine user; but these days, I try to keep it down to a couple of cups in the morning to kick start me, and maybe one in the afternoon if I’m really tired, or on the road.

I know you’re all out there, I see you; and I’m trying to keep it that way.