It’s too easy to judge addicts, but we shouldn’t.

Every so often I’m reminded how we judge addicts. We all do it – look down on them because it makes us feel a little better. Even I did it last week; shared a meme with an image that was trending on Facebook, of a girl with a trolley more or less attached to her, and some condescending text about meth. Now I’m sorry I shared it.

People used to judge me too, and write me off, but last night I was reminded of some stuff I achieved on meth. I was looking around on my hard drive because it’s getting full and I need to delete some old files, when I found a backup directory, a backup of my old drive from a few years ago, because I gave the drive to my ex…

It contained a lot of evidence, not of my drug use, but of the results of my tweaking on the computer. Besides the movies and downloads, there was also some source code I’d forgotten about.

I’ll try to make this as simple as possible, but that isn’t easy. I’d written my own video player, in c# using DirectShow. It’s not great, but it works, and it works pretty well. But it only plays video files directly. At some point, I was interested in playing DVDs too. So I found source code that I could use, a tutorial with some sample code on playing DVDs from c#. The only problem was, my video player code was “tightly coupled” to the form that uses it. So the form, which should just be the user interface (with the buttons to play and so on) included all the code for playing videos. Not only that, but it does some funky stuff with background threads, for example so that if you click “next”, it already knows all the files in the directory. Plus it has features like frame stepping and player speed that aren’t necessarily implemented in the DVD player code.

So, to change my player so that it could play files or DVDs, I had two options:

  1. Use inheritance. This would involve defining a base “player” class, and having two derived classes. One would be the file player, with all the existing code moved to it, and another would be a DVD player class.
  2. Define a “player” interface. This interface would contain the definitions for all the stuff the player did, but only the definitions. Then I’d have two implementations of this interface, one with my existing code, and another for DVDs. (The DVD player would then not implement the methods or properties that were specific to the file player, or at least fail gracefully at those things.)

Apparently I decided on option two. “Apparently” is quoted because I was so high, I don’t remember any of that. But it’s there – I found that I went as far as defining the interface. Then I stopped there, because it would be a couple more days work to refactor my code, and then implement the DVD playing code, as well as having some way (an “abstract factory” probably) of deciding an runtime which implementation to use based on what was being played. The bulk of the work would be the refactoring… There’s a lot more that I’m not mentioning, such as the peripheral details around the two kinds of players. The file player has a concept of play lists, which involves relative paths to the locations of files on disk, and it can also persist the starting position (and ending position which allows for playback loops because I was tweaking) within files, while a DVD player would need to be able to navigate a menu system, and switch between different tracks. The code for the file player to “know” the difference between playing files in a list verses playing whatever is in the directory, is messy. Not to mention repeat modes… on reaching the end of a file, it must decide, based on the repeat mode, whether to go to the next file, or repeat the file, or if set to repeat the whole list/directory, decide what to do then based on the index within the list/directory (and lastly if super-duper tweaker pervert porno repeat cumshot loop is engaged, repeat that part of the file when it gets to the end of the section, or check if there is a loop to repeat when loading a new file. Sigh… Tweaking leads to strange complications). That shit would be complicated to refactor, and even on meth I was too lazy to do all that.

The point is, I did some hard-core programming shit on meth. This is unfinished code, but I have had the dubious “pleasure” of working with some less talented programmers over the years, programmers who were incapable of doing what I could do when I was on meth.

Don’t judge people just because they’re on drugs. Being an addict doesn’t make anyone stupid, although it certainly does lead to them doing some stupid things. (For example, writing video players when you’re tweaking on porn – then not actually watching the porn but rather going off on a tangent writing a fairly feature-rich video player.) While you’re laughing at people and putting them down, there are some good people out there who just made some bad choices. Some of them are more clever or gifted than you can imagine, and a little empathy goes a long way.

Another way addicts are often judged, and sorry if you’ve read what I’ve written about this before, is the so called “faces of meth”, photos shared online with the pretence of it being about deterring others from using meth. It’s never about that. It’s about laughing at people less fortunate than yourself. It’s also about missing the point.

I won’t share such images myself, but I will state an example. I remember seeing one of those images of a girl who supposedly used meth for ten years. She was a pretty girl, probably about seventeen in the first image, then more or less a year older in every subsequent image. But here’s the problem: The first image, where she looked pretty, was a police mug shot. She was arrested for drug possession and prostitution, and was probably already living on the street. Do you see where I’m going with this? In the before image, she was probably already using meth for at least five years, maybe longer. And as for the rest, they were pictures of a woman living on the street, most likely using multiple drugs, including but not limited to meth. Once you get to the point of living on the street, meth is soon out of range of what you can afford, unless of course you happen to be a career criminal. And of course, career criminals and long time prostitutes have more factors affecting their appearance than the number of years they use meth.

Edit: This needs to be expanded on… Career criminals and the people associated with them, who are committing crimes for their drugs, don’t have normal lives. Contrast this with normal people who happen to be addicts… who still go home to their houses where they shower, brush their teeth, get dressed and go to work every day. (And then maybe party all night and every weekend, sometimes disappearing for a day or two each month after they get paid.) They’re nothing like those pitiful looking photos you see in mug shots online.

So while you look at those photos and laugh at the subjects in them, you miss that most addicts look nothing like those people. Most addicts are working normal jobs, and you would never guess they’re using drugs. People might work while using for up to twenty years, before they reach that point where they can’t work any more. And it’s all too easy to judge them while you have a drink every day, or do cocaine occasionally. You might find yourself judging them even after you’ve already become one of them. And when that happens, you might realize as I did, that those “photos of meth” are not a deterrent at all. They’re one of many ways to misunderstand how widespread and dangerous addiction really is, allowing you to see addicts in terms of stereotypes rather than reality.

Posted in Addiction, Methamphetamine, Programming, Recovery | Leave a comment

Some annoying loaded questions for atheists

So recently I saw this shared on Facebook:

LoadedQuestions

This was the original text:

A close relative from my hometown area contacted me this morning. This person said that they have been watching my page for sometime and have recently had severe doubts about the existence of God. Below is a summary of the questions asked. I thought it would be great if my FB Atheist friends could share their opinions to show the light (so to speak).

Note that all those questions are loaded with assumptions. My friend who shared it mentioned being open to honest questions. Are those questions honest? Maybe I should give the benefit of the doubt and take them to be so, but while they may be honest, they certainly don’t make any attempt to understand what atheism is before asking. (I’m sure that sounds reasonable, until you consider that this is how people debate all the time. They ask us questions and attempt debate without knowing what atheism is. How can you debate something when you don’t have a clue what it is?)

To me, the questions don’t seem to come from someone who has doubts, which contradicts the quote that came along with the OP. My answers below are thus not directed at anyone who has serious doubts about the existence of god… They’re the sort of answers I give when debating someone who strongly believes. Maybe I’m being unfair, but the below is how I deal with people of faith.

Perhaps it is worth noting that I didn’t come to this position overnight. When I was about 16, I stopped believing in god. Letting go of a belief in a soul or afterlife took years. So don’t take this too hard if you are somewhere between belief and disbelief as I was for so long. I try, in my answers below, to address not only the questions but also the assumptions that are loaded into those questions.

As an atheist, what do you believe?

Atheism isn’t a belief system. It isn’t some polar opposite of belief in whatever god you believe in. I don’t believe in any gods, or a soul, an afterlife, or creation, because there is no evidence to support the claims that any of those things exist. Religion makes claims. Atheism simply rejects those claims. As an atheist, I’m standing over here pointing at you and saying, “Nope, that’s bullshit”.

The burden of proof lies with those making the claims. But instead of those who insist that their gods exist making any attempt to prove it (because they can’t), they ask us who don’t believe to explain ourselves. That’s backwards. It’s only this way because religion spreads by indoctrination, by brainwashing children to believe before they are old enough to think critically. So instead of intelligent debate, we get religious apologetics, which seeks to rationalize reasons for believing despite zero evidence, often by bad arguments and logical fallacies or assuming that other things are evidence for god, and we get loaded questions like these, asking those who take the rational approach to explain why they don’t believe what you assume to be true.

What happens when you die?

You no longer exist. There is no evidence for a soul, an afterlife, or a creator. Just because you assume those things to be true does not make them so. As an atheist, I not only do not believe in any of those things, but it’s also not like I connect the idea of a creator to an afterlife. Those things are assumptions you make when you buy into your specific religion.

Not only does the burden of proof mean you need to prove that the god you believe in exists, but also, you need to provide evidence that a soul exists, which means there should be some way of showing that something other than our brains are responsible for our thoughts and awareness. Then, you need to point out why your god is the right one, instead of one of thousands of other gods that were claimed to exist, and establish why worshipping your god is a prerequisite for the afterlife that you assume exists.

To quote Louis C.K.

“What happens after you die?” “Lot’s of things happen after you die – they just don’t involve you.”

Why are we here?

Why should there be a reason? This question is not honest. When faced with difficult questions such as, “Why did your god let millions of innocent people die?”, you tell me, “The lord works in mysterious ways”. So because I don’t buy that, because I don’t accept this magical placeholder for the unknown, the origin of which should not be questioned – unlike the universe – I don’t have a purpose? And you do? What is that purpose?

Just because you claim a deity created you and everything and everyone else, does not give you a purpose. There isn’t a reason and your assumption says more about you as a believer than it does about me as a nonbeliever.

Where do morals come from?

They come from laws, in societies that have evolved where breaking them is detrimental to us an a species on the whole, because upholding those laws is an advantage to our survival. But ultimately they come from us empathising for one another. Ironically, this argument from morality has been made since before man created your god, and will likely still be made at some point in future when belief in some other god is popular and your god has been relegated to myth just like Zeus or Odin.

Edit: My friend Gareth explains the empathising better than I do. He commented the following answer to this question on the original Facebook share: “Evolutionary programming. You feel protective toward babies because you are programmed, and that programming is so deep that you feel the same way toward kittens.

No doubt believers will then credit their god as being responsible for that evolutionary programming? Go ahead and assume that, but know that you just made another claim that isn’t supported by evidence. Also, it’s the same as taking the “works of god” to be evidence that god exists… To take the things that you assume god did to be proof of god is circular reasoning, as the premise of your argument assumes the conclusion to be true.

Furthermore, if a creator was responsible for some kind of objective morality, then all religious people would have exactly the same morals. They don’t. OK, so maybe all Christians since the beginning of the religion have identical morals? Sorry, no. OK, so maybe all Christians in all parts of the world right now have identical morals? Sorry, no.

Just because you credit your god with morality doesn’t make it so. And morality existed before your god’s teachings were written. Of course, in that case you can claim that god-given morals existed before then since “god revealed himself to us”. Really? Well, in that case, we come back to all religions being equal. Why then, do Christians tell me I have to accept Jesus, and Muslims tell me I must accept Allah? If every religion is the result of god “revealing himself to us”, as some of my Christian friends tell me, then maybe they ought to stop insisting other religions are wrong. You can’t have it both ways… As it happens, when you believe in things that contradict each other, and it makes you uncomfortable enough to pretend those contradictions don’t exist, there’s a name for that: Cognitive dissonance.

Why is it that I, as an atheist, have no reason to prejudice against gay people, or transgender people, or people who practice different religions? And also, I have no reason to believe that women are inferior. Even though I’m male, I’m a feminist because there is no reason for everybody not to have equal rights. And even as a white South African, I believe that white privilege and systematic racism is wrong and must be opposed, because it is the decent thing to do. Why is it that without any god, I have better morals than so many Christians? Maybe it’s because I learned my morals from my parents, my peers, and common decency? (Just like the bigoted fucks, but my parents and peers were not assholes like theirs.) Maybe it’s because morality is subjective?

How did the universe begin?

I don’t know, but then neither do you. I don’t pretend to have an answer.

I don’t have a magical placeholder in place of “I don’t know”, call it “God”, and insist that its origin can’t be questioned. How did god begin?

If you insist that god is eternal, then all you have is magic that isn’t allowed to be questioned. It makes no logical sense. You have no more an explanation than I do, but you just don’t know it, and because of indoctrination, you think that belief in god answers everything. It doesn’t. Actually there’s a name for this kind of flawed logic: Special pleading. If everything needs to have a creator (or a cause), but god doesn’t, then your conclusion violates the premise of your argument.

If god doesn’t need a beginning, why not the universe too? It could be a loop. Big Bang. Expand. Cool down after many billions of years. Collapse. When everything in the entire universe has been swallowed by black holes that then merge, there is no longer any mass. Without mass, time no longer exists, and the size is once again minimal. Next Big Bang. The loop repeats. I’m not saying that this is the answer, but the point is, inventing a god that the origin thereof by definition may not be questioned, simply moves the unknown that the god placeholder replaces, into a dogmatic solution that doesn’t solve anything.

Aren’t you afraid of going to Hell?

No, not in the least.

Like the first question, this one is loaded with assumptions. Threatening an atheist with Hell is like telling an adult that Santa won’t give them Christmas presents, only worse. It’s beyond absurd. We see through your religions. We understand that belief in gods does not explain anything about where the universe came from, does not give you better morals, and does not give you purpose. If you believe it does, goody for you! I’m glad that your belief gives you some sort of meaning and that your false comfort makes you feel all warm and fuzzy. Just don’t project that shit on me and others like me.

Posted in Skepticism | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

My annoying and scary dreams

Every night I have long and vivid dreams, many of which are nightmares. I don’t often remember them, but since this one stood out, I thought it might be worth sharing…

So imagine this scenario:

  • You wake up in a soundproofed van. You’re naked and shackled at the feet.
  • Beside you is a woman (let’s assume you’re male), also naked and shackled.
  • To the outside of each of you is a diving knife.
  • You receive one instruction from your captor: Fight to the death, and you will be allowed to live. Refuse and you die.

Sounds similar to those awful Saw movies? I don’t know how similar, because I only watched the first one. Anyway, I figured this was a dream, and woke up right away, but that didn’t stop me from thinking about the awful dream. What would you do? And what if the situation were slightly different? No knife, but the instruction to rape her and live… refuse and you die. Would you do it?

I wouldn’t, but I don’t know what I would do. I tried to think about escape, cooperation with the other victim, etc. Of course, there’d be no guarantee that your captor would set you free even if you complied.

Oddly enough, this was in a way simpler than my normal nightmares. In them, I don’t figure out it’s a dream, and they go something like this:

  • I’m at work. I have to develop an application of some sort, and demo it by the end of the day.
  • If I miss my deadline, my job is on the line. (Totally unrealistic, but that’s the reality in the dream; so I’m stressed out and believe it’s real.)
  • To finish the application, I must solve an incredibly complex and contrived, impossible problem.
  • But the nature of the problem is like this: For every step I make towards solving it, three new problems arise, all of which are just as mind-bogglingly complex as the original problem.
  • Each of the new problems leads to even more problems.
  • Each of the new solutions I come up with not only lead to exponentially increasing more problems, they also undo all the work on the previous and original problem.
  • So it works out that the more I concentrate and the harder I work, the further I get from solving anything.

And that is one of my normal nightmares. I can’t explain just how much that sucks. Upon waking from such a dream, I feel like I haven’t slept at all. I wake up tired from concentrating and trying to solve unsolvable problems.

Incidentally, the above is kind of how it feels to write computer programs under the influence of methamphetamine. Maybe the nightmare is inspired by memories of tweaking… I don’t know. But I hate those dreams. At least I don’t have using dreams any more. I haven’t had one of those for several months.

Posted in Methamphetamine, Recovery | Tagged | Leave a comment

Grateful Recovering Addicts are like Humble Christians, All For Show.

I’ve mentioned before that I am not a grateful recovering addict. Did I mention that I despised, back when I attended meetings, when somebody introduced themselves like, “Hi, I’m Jackass and I’m a Grateful Recovering Addict!”?

They remind me of my Sunday school teacher from back when I was eight years old. She was like, “As Christians you must be humble, like me. Look at me – I’m so humble. I got bags of humility. Humility even comes out of my ass!” OK, she didn’t say that, but that’s what came across. Luckily I knew what humility is; otherwise I might have confused it with arrogance.

You might retort that she didn’t mean that she was humble, but that we must be humble like Jesus… So when was he humble? Was he humble when he went into a church and told the preachers how to do their jobs? Was he humble when he told twelve men to abandon their wives, children and parents, to follow him? Was he humble when he made the outrageous, unfalsifiable and arrogant claim, “My kingdom is not of this world”? No! Assuming he existed at all, that guy wasn’t humble.

Gratitude in recovery is just like humility in Christianity. It’s something we’re told we need to have, by others who claim boastfully to have it. I’m not saying there aren’t genuine recovering and former addicts who are grateful. If I watch an interview with Dave Gahan… the guy is grateful, and humble. He’s smart, wise, and oozes gratitude despite his success. But he doesn’t shove that gratitude down your throat and tell you that you’re no good because you aren’t grateful and humble too.

When someone boasts about their gratitude, as they do in meetings, I can’t say whether or not they are grateful. And I don’t care if they are, because it isn’t about gratitude. It’s about them, about them being boastful. “I’m so grateful. More so than you. I’m so grateful. How about you?”

There’s nothing wrong with a bit of pride, some arrogance, and even a healthy dose of narcissism. We all need to love and believe in ourselves. Just don’t pretend it’s something else, because that’s fucking annoying. And when you tell someone else they need to be grateful, just like you, you’re not doing them any good.

Some of us aren’t grateful, and that’s OK. I decided to clean up from drugs. I used whatever resources were at hand to achieve my goal. I am not grateful to those resources for doing what they needed to do. They served their purpose, and that shit is over and done with. No need for gratitude.

Posted in Addiction, Methamphetamine, Recovery | Tagged | 3 Comments

Don’t be fooled by this hoaxed image. This dog is FLAT!

I’ve seen this floating around on Facebook, so I had to point this out to those who are so easily taken in…

Shake up, weeple! Don’t be fooled. Clearly this image was taken with a cateye lens!

RoundDoggo

I’ve shared this especially because of that guy who took offense when I (quite rightly) called flat earthers “morons”. By his logic, this conclusion makes perfect sense… Remember fuckaroos, reality is perceptually subjective; therefore dogs are flat! (Non sequitur borrowed and conclusion changed without permission, but the logic is identical.)

Edit: I refer above to the logic of this comment.

Posted in Humour | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

In a world of participation trophies and fears of abandonment, my son expects a medal for merely getting out of bed.

Lately I’m struggling with my son. Everything is an obstacle. Everything.

Last night it was his grammar homework. He had to pluralize a bunch of words that ended in the letter Y, such as “army” and “party”. He had them all wrong. (armyes, partyes etc.) Even after I explained to him several times that Y pluralizes to IES, he would not listen. “My teacher says (it ends in ES)”… That answer drives me mad.

He also has a weird reaction to being reprimanded for anything. He appears to get angry, then shuts down and sulks. So he’ll either stand in one place, or lie on his bed, and refuse to move or do anything, thus the reprimand will have the opposite reaction to my intention. The other day, it reached the extreme when, after bedtime, while bawling his eyes out, he started packing his bags! Like my nine year old son was going to leave me. He thought I didn’t love him, and so I had to comfort him and let him sleep in my bed.

It seems to be a combination of a few things:

  1. Abandonment issues. (He was taken away from us for a while.) I don’t know what was said to him for those few years when he wasn’t with me, but he clearly fears being abandoned, and that he isn’t loved. So he has to be reassured every day.
  2. Fear of trying. He’d rather give up than actually concentrate on anything.
  3. Participation trophies. Even at his school sports day last year, they got fucking medals for losing. His former foster mother praised him for everything. I’m being hyperbolical, but he was more or less praised for not shitting in his pants.

He also refuses to follow instructions, and doesn’t look after his things. He takes off shoes and jerseys and leaves them wherever he is, and does the same with toys. He still can’t tie his school tie, although I have shown him how several times. (I could tie mine, two different ways, when I was two years younger than he is now.) No matter how many times I tell him to untie his shoelaces before removing his shoes, he still doesn’t do it.

This morning he realized that he’d lost his tracksuit jacket. The headmaster has threatened them with immediate detention if they don’t wear the jacket with their jerseys… So he refused to move, and stood in the bedroom making me late, even though I had to go because I had to drop my mother at the hospital again. I had to shout and then threaten to drag him outside to make him move. (I did send a message to his teacher and explain that he lost it, asking her to help him look for it because he is afraid of getting into trouble.) Further, if they put him in detention, then his lift is going to leave him at school, and I can’t leave work early to pick him up. (They’d better not. It’s unfair anyway.)

Basically, Josh is difficult just like his mother. I wish she were here, or at least lived closer – maybe she could help a little.

It’s not all bad. Josh is also very loving and affectionate, and a pleasure when he isn’t in one of his difficult moods. But parenting isn’t all easy, and it sucks doing it alone.

Posted in Family, Parenting, Recovery | 3 Comments

My fitness progress, after a short break

Well, I’ve figured out what to do on my one night of peace and quiet… waste my data on Facebook, which isn’t so bad since it expires tomorrow anyway. I’ve shared on my gym progress a few times now so I figured I might as well do so again, since I’ve changed my direction a little.

After my car accident and then while not having a car for over a month, I couldn’t go to gym. That was because Uber is too expensive to use every day, so most of the time I caught a lift with a neighbour, and arrived at work at exactly 8AM. I get there before 6AM for gym, and before 7AM on the days when I don’t gym, so there just wasn’t time. And of course I’m lazy… I could have gone running on the road but I just didn’t.

So last week I resumed working out, but have changed my routine and my goal. This is my current routine:

  1. Run for 25 minutes on the treadmill, at 9.5km/h.
  2. Cycle for 10 to 15 minutes, without any fixed speed or tension – just try to keep going without exhausting myself.
  3. Walk around the track for about 10 minutes, as fast as I can, until I lose interest.

Last weekend I was surprised to discover that I could still run for 25 minutes in one go, but it led to some aches and pains in the two days after… But three workouts later and all that pain is gone. 25 minutes may not sound too impressive, but considering that a year ago, I couldn’t even run for two minutes without feeling half dead, it’s good enough. I’m happy with my progress. I’m still overweight (though not as much as I was), but that’s where my new goal comes in…

I’m not interested in building muscle, not any more. I’m naturally well built anyway. Always have been. When I was younger and lost weight from running, I looked pretty great. Yah, that sounds narcissistic as fuck. Sorry (not sorry). I want that back. I used to go into some random pub when I was in my twenties, and next thing I knew, there’d be two hot women playing with my hair, platting it and so on. Even though I was as shy as anyone could be, they came to me. Well, I can’t have my hair back, but maybe I can have a body something like I used to. A man can dream. Some attention from women would be great too. I don’t want to pick anyone up, and to be honest I am asexual these days and happy to stay that way, but feel that looking good and feeling good about myself, with a bonus effect of good health, would be awesome.

So my objective is to have a flat stomach by my 46th birthday in October, and I think it’s a realistic goal.

I’m concentrating mostly on the running, because I love running. It was always my favourite exercise. When I was younger I thought nothing of running for 45 minutes every day, but I’ll get there again. I’ll add 5 minutes onto my time whenever I feel ready, and take time off the other exercises.

Today Josh went to gym with me, and he managed to go 9 minutes on the treadmill next to mine. He doesn’t listen though… I tell him not to run fast but to run slowly for a long time, because that’s what I do when training – I pick a speed that I can maintain, then maintain it for as long as I can… a pace that I can keep going at without getting out of breath or changing my stride. Right now I’m at the point where I could probably add on a few minutes, but I want to make sure I can do so easily, so I’ll probably rather increase the number of weekdays that I go to the gym. Anyway, Josh tires himself out by running too fast. At the end of today’s workout, he’d joined me on the track, so I suggested that we run the last lap. I told him not to go fast but to take the same pace as me for the whole lap, but instead he ran ahead trying to show off. So I sprinted. Left him more than half the track behind me. I might just incorporate sprinting into my routine from now on – walk or jog one lap, then sprint one, and so on. It was great to discover I can still sprint.

I shall now resume my Facebooking. Good night.

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