How to fight South African spam (uninvited bulk email)

Most (unsolicited bulk email) spam is commercial, but NGOs also offend. In my last NGO job, I was put in a very nasty situation by my then boss, who pressured me to add all our contacts to our mailing lists, without their explicit consent. I don’t believe, however, that having a worthy cause is an excuse for stealing people’s email details and invading their inboxes. In fact, it’s pretty stupid public relations – it makes your organisation look unprofessional and desperate. An organisation that really has something to offer will never struggle to build its mailing lists by legitimate means, and vice versa. Continue reading

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A care plan for living with bipolar depression – how you can help

A few years ago, a dear friend asked me to please write down for her exactly how she could help me when I’m depressed. I had to write it when I was well, of course, couldn’t think this clearly when ill. I’m publishing these suggestions here not because I expect the whole world to help me, but because these notes may be helpful to other people, with of course, your own needs and amendments. I really think that anyone who experiences mental or other chronic illness should try to create a similar document for those who care for you.

It’s very difficult for me to accept help in these circumstances for a couple of reasons:

Firstly, my self-esteem is so low that I feel utterly unworthy of assistance.

Secondly, other people’s company is at times almost physically painful. Please see my written descriptions of what I’m feeling, to get some idea. Continue reading

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Notes on bipolar depression

I have written at length, publicly, about my experience of bipolar II depression elsewhere, and as I seem now to be emerging from my latest bout (thanks, probably, to the antipsychotic drug sulpiride), it’s a good time to capture a few thoughts (including those on psychiatrists and psychiatric drugs) before the full horror of this most recent episode recedes.  For bipolar depression is so awful that it’s difficult to remember when well exactly how horrible the experience is, even for one who, like myself, has experienced it many times.

For the past six weeks, I have been locked into a state of absolute misery and despair. At times, this sensation is so tangible, it’s almost physical. Sulpiride, lithium and lamotrigine pills Of course, bipolar depression is physical. Much of the time, just being conscious is painful: I feel I want to crawl out of my skin; my brain at times feels like it wants to wriggle its way out of my skull to escape the pain of being there. By pain, I mean psychic pain so tangible it’s almost physical. The world seems utterly bleak and meaningless. My body often aches. I am terribly slowed down and very easily fatigued. The presence of other people causes me great discomfort. I speak in a whisper. My appetite is diminished. Doing the simplest things Continue reading

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Bipolar disorder and why we hate taking the pills

In which I attempt to analyse why we resist taking psychiatric drugs, but suggest that for all their evils, they’re the least worst treatment option for serious endogenous mood disorders.

My reluctant recommendation, if you’re diagnosed bipolar is that you accept the need for a pharmacological treatment, that you very systematically track each drug you take, and carefully assess its effects, and communicate those effects as clearly and decisively as you can to your psychiatrist. Before insisting on a different regimen, you should be clear in your own mind that you have properly assessed that drug after taking it as prescribed. But once you have properly assessed it and found it wanting, don’t hesitate to insist on a change, unless your psychiatrist can offer clear and persuasive reasons for persisting.

The horrible truth is that it can take years to find the right combination of pills to stabilise, and this is the only way – slow and painstaking and terribly hard – to find that combination. Continue reading

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Mitigating your abuse – a checklist for psychiatrists

I am of course not a psychiatrist. But I regularly marvel at the omissions of psychiatrists. Matters that are pure common sense never seem to enter their repertoire, or do so but occasionally.

Patient relationships with psychiatrists and psychologists are inherently abusive, because the moment you have walked out the door and paid the bill, you are forgotten, no matter how ill or desperate you are – and sorry, waving a magic wand and invoking bourgeois capitalist professional detachment doesn’t change this brutal fact any more than does any other kind of magic. Delving into my deepest vulnerabilities, taking my money and then forgetting about me, without necessarily having made a jot of difference to my suffering, IS abusive. This means that as a mental health professional, you better work bloody hard during your consultation to earn your detachment.

These are some of the points I believe must be raised in a good consultation.

  • Issues of general psychosocial distress. Relationships, past abuse, work, living circumstances, finances – all these are enormous potential additions to intrinsic psychic distress, yet all are all too often neglected.
  • Lifestyle: Exercise, sleep, quality of food, substance abuse, addictions of habit.
  • What makes me feel good, and what makes me feel bad? What empowers me  or makes me feel powerless. How can I get more of the first, and less of the second?
  • Have I created a care plan to help friends and family assist me? How many people have copies?
  • Adherence! How the hell do you know I’m going to take the pills you nonchalantly prescribe? Ask me how I feel about them. Give me a proper and comprehensive idea of the side-effects. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve returned to a psychiatrist saying, ‘I’m having problems with X,’ and heard the response, ‘Oh yes, that’s sometimes a problem.’ Homicidal thoughts while on fluoxetine/Prozac – no-one told me about those. Thank god, I’d read about them myself. Ask how I’m feeling about the pills, if I have a way of remembering to take them, if I’m reluctant – these questions are vital.
  • Listen. Listen properly. Ask me if I have concerns, because I may not be strong enough to raise them if you don’t. I have raised my problems with concentration with two psychiatrists, and don’t feel either takes them at all seriously. Yet my problems with concentration are an immense – IMMENSE – source of misery and distress. If you, oh immortal psychiatrist, don’t know what the fuck to do, then say so, fine, but don’t just skate past the issue or dismiss it with an air of lofty omniscience.

Yes, addressing all these issues may not fix my bipolar disorder. Probably only the pills can do that. But all these other factors may determine whether or not I live long enough to find the right combination of pills.

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The tragic and unnecessary evil of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki

firestorm-hiroThe standard lie about the end of the second World War is that the use of atomic weapons was essential to force the Japanese to surrender and so save the lives of Allied troops. There is a lot of evidence to suggest this is not true, and that the real reason had more to do with impressing the Russians and justifying the immense cost of developing the bombs. (Justifying military expenditure appears to be a recurring cause of American wars.) It’s also pretty obvious that neither Hiroshima nor Nagasaki were targets of military importance.

Some key quotes

‘The Japanese had, in fact, already sued for peace before the atomic age was announced to the world with the destruction of Hiroshima and before the Russian entry into the war.’ – Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, speech at the Washington Monument on 5 October 1945

‘The first atomic bomb was an unnecessary experiment . . . It was a mistake to ever drop it.’ – Admiral William F. Halsey, commander of the US Third Fleet, speaking in September 1945.

‘It wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing . . . to use the atomic bomb, to kill and terrorize civilians, without even attempting [negotiations], was a double crime.’ – Dwight D. Eisenhower, Allied commander-in-chief of European forces during WWII, and later president of the United States, quoted in Newsweek, 11/11/63.

Other sources

For more detail, see The Hiroshima Lie, by John V. Denson, and read Jim Craven’s account of why nuclear weapons were used against Japan.

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Fix for Macbook Air audio problem: no sound

macbook-air-largeSummary of the fix: Re-route the audio flex cable in the Macbook Air to run around the other side of the battery from where Apple has installed it.

About 90% of the traffic on this blog comes to one post I wrote in 2012 about solving a problem with a swollen Macbook battery. A bit sad, really, considering that I’d far rather people were reading what I have to say about the crushing burden of inequality on human society, or of the massive potential for ecological restoration to begin undoing the extraordinary damage we’re doing to our single, tiny fragile planet-habitat. Continue reading

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