Marijuana May Boost, Rather Than Dull, the Elderly Brain

May 10, 2017

By Stephani Sutherland

Picture the stereotypical pot smoker: young, dazed and confused. Marijuana has long been known for its psychoactive effects, which can include cognitive impairment. But new research published this week in Nature Medicine suggests the drug might affect older users very differently than young ones—at least in mice. Instead of impairing learning and memory as it does in young people, the drug appears to reverse age-related declines in the cognitive performance of elderly mice.

Researchers led by Andreas Zimmer of the University of Bonn in Germany gave low doses of delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, marijuana’s main active ingredient, to young, mature and aged mice. As expected, young mice treated with THC performed slightly worse on behavioral tests of memory and learning. For example, after THC young mice took longer to learn where a safe platform was hidden in a water maze, and they had a harder time recognizing another mouse to which they had previously been exposed. Without the drug, mature and aged mice performed worse on the tests than young ones did. But after receiving THC the elderly animals’ performances improved to the point that they resembled those of young, untreated mice. “The effects were very robust, very profound,” Zimmer says.

Other experts praised the study but cautioned against extrapolating the findings to humans. “This well-designed set of experiments shows that chronic THC pretreatment appears to restore a significant level of diminished cognitive performance in older mice, while corroborating the opposite effect among young mice,” Susan Weiss, director of the Division of Extramural Research at the National Institute on Drug Abuse who was not involved in the study, wrote in an e-mail. Nevertheless, she added, “While it would be tempting to presume the relevance of these findings [extends] to aging humans…further research will be critically needed.”

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82 comments on “Marijuana May Boost, Rather Than Dull, the Elderly Brain

  • This sounds just what I need….Dammit!

    I’ve never got on with this stuff. After the hash brownie dessert at an Islington dinner party I had to be taken home in a taxi early because I thought my bum was on fire. After the space cake especially made for us in an Amsterdam Cafe found in Mellow Pages, and after 2 hours of feeling cheated, I thought I was having a stroke and spent the next 2 terrifying days narrowly avoiding being pushed onto train tracks by demonic teenagers, boarding a plane subsequently hijacked by most of the passengers…in turn, then wondering why the traffic insisted on driving at us on the way home from the airport.

    I’ll just have to settle for free basing my caffeine for that extra IQ point.

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  • Dammit Phil ! You don’t need any more IQ points and your memory is as sharp as a razor! I haven’t a single point to spare at this point. No smoking for you. I’ll do the smoking for you.


    Cars careening towards me and then veering off at the last minute, yes, that happened to me too! Turns out I was in London. Not even high at the time. Terror.

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  • Torys of the future take note! Target the elderly and get rid of pensions. Look at them…living off the state and smoking pot all day remembering things and all that.

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  • Sorry I couldn’t add more. Had to post and run. I didn’t mean to make it sound as if I knew it all along. It suprised me how complicated it can be. Was that creatures teeth designed for what it was actually eating?

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  • I know from having been intimately acquainted with the drug at an early age, that it temporarily opens the senses and ultimately dulls the young mind. The elderly I don’t know about. I’d discourage anyone from smoking that crap until there brains are fully formed.

    It took me years and years to recover. Not sure if I ever did entirely.

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  • Their brains, that is. I wrote “there”. See what I mean? And read my latest comment on the Neo thread. I do sound like Chopra sometimes. Could that be from all that weed I smoked at age fourteen and fifteen?

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  • Phil,
    Your IQ wont budge. I love the model of “how big your cup is”. It’s always been and always will be the same size. Pot may cause you to fill your cup with stuff you’d otherwise had ignored. It may improve your interest (it may dull it too). It seems to help hyper people concentrate and creative people reach further. But, the shit that you seek is all already there.

    Turn off the TV, ignore the phone, leave the internet. Sit a few minutes a day and think. Then sit a little longer and think more. It’s better than drugs and the side effects are ideas and energy. When I have an idea that I am jazzed about, I am awake before my alarm…. I am thinking, talking, dreaming about my shit. Not TV, or Trump, or whatever artificial I may use as a surrogate for thinking for myself. Want to end terrorism? Turn off the news; they are partners. Want to disarm radicals? Shut them off and fear goes away. I dare you all to drop your digital presence for two days. Then three. go.

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  • crooked #11
    good recipe

    add take a solitary walk in natural surroundings
    for at least an hour with no electronics contacts
    add a few puffs for that “reach further” element

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  • phil #2
    quite funny
    but no wonder you got paranoid
    at a party for your first(?) not a good idea
    especially not in islington
    edibles can be very tricky
    airports definitely out
    a techno man like you should not be around any kind of high tech
    listen to the old mouse
    a few puffs of good organically outdoor grown sativa
    best grown by the user
    and see response to crooked #11

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  • My dear quarecuss,

    Well, maybe – but someone gave some weed to my ailing father (who was 86, dying of cancer) and he hated it. It didn’t boost shit. I think it might make you high – that’s all. They said the same thing about coffee. My senile and docile grandmother (who was once as tough and sharp as they get) drank some coffee. Nothing happened. And my father was sharp as hell and never lost one bit of his acuity until the cancer took possession of him during the last year of his life. I think reading and studying and using your head preserves that aliveness. There’ve been some studies about that, but not with mice. The rest is probably genetic. But who knows? I ain’t no scientist… If I feel dull in my eighties I might give it a try. But it’ll just be like booze, wouldn’t it; you get a little juiced up, and then you feel worse.

    I am skeptical. Mice are a poor subject, too easily excited by any form of stimuli cause they’re always afraid of being annihilated.

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  • Dan,
    It’s not like booze. Booze is addictive and one can overdose on it. Pot is relatively much less dangerous since neither of those things are true. I’ve always considered myself lucky that I hate the taste of booze. Of all the drugs Ive done in my life none of them are half as dangerous as that one.

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  • Hi all, I have to add my two cents.(all I can afford).
    I have had serious pain for three decades as some of you know. I have a sleep disorder also.
    I wish I had another alternative to weed but all pain relief in a medication is addictive. Especially if your pain is not curable.
    I am not going to take opiate based meds. I have heard enough about them. Even though they are free from the VA, I still am not interested.
    I think at this time pot is the least destructive.
    I also hate the taste of alcohol like you Laurie. Makes me a drag at parties, as if I go to “parties”.

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  • Laurie.

    just meant that you get high and then feel dull afterwards.

    Like booze in so far as it can be an escape and a crutch. But many people love pot and it is not harmful unless it is abused. Same with booze. Certainly pot is habit forming, as is TV and indiscriminate sex, etc. Any habit can become an addiction, can’t it? (This is a language question.) Not a physiological addiction like heroin or booze; no withdrawal, no nervous system excitation; fine; but an uncontrollable habit? I was absolutely hooked; that’s all I know. And a lot of my pothead friends were hooked.

    My mom smokes weed sometimes to relax. Don’t spread it around. I have nothing against weed or alcohol per se, and I understand the differences – and the similarities. Feel free to rebut me. I love to debate stuff.

    Late for Maddow. Bye for now.

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  • Dan

    Everything you say is true but it does boil down to the individual as with most things. My eldest brother drank, took all drugs and even used to steal my mums tablets. I don’t drink much at all but I do indulge in a bit of weed. But you are right about habit forming and dulling the brain but just for the morning with me. Like alf1200 I take it for pain and think it kept me going the last ten years of work but nagged me to turn back home and get back in bed. It enhances my shyness at times but makes sex better and gives me an appetite. I never looked for a higher buzz but some people who were constantly in and out of our little group did and one rich kid overdosed and died. My niece used to smoke and had a poster of Bob Marley hung on her bedroom wall. This I saw as dangerous because she is buying into a sort of cult so I sat down and spoke with her about it. It helped until she broke up with her boyfriend and then spent the next three years in her bedroom in drug enhanced depression. She is ok now and has two children. People sometimes are out to destroy themselves and the drugs, but mainly the people they end up hanging around with, are the real dangers. My brothers first love, from the age of sixteen was gambling and the only place he could do it was little Jamaican cafe/card and dice dens. I am pretty sure the first joint came from there and enhanced his selfish can’t miss any of the fun weaknesses. I could see that m,y youngest sister had the same sort of personality but it wasn’t as easy for girls to go down that route in those days. I was a goody two shoes. I did as I was told and scared of authority. They seem to be always at odds with it and got into trouble often.

    The first joint I had was in a golf bunker at a Pitch@Putt course at the back of our house at around 2am. I got nothing from it and sat asking why when my mates were laughing and being stupid. I was clumsily trying to roll another one so I could catch up. Unlike Phil, it took months for me to actually get anything from it. My best mate at the time had a terrible time as he imagined spiders all over him. I don’t understand that effect because all I get is frisky and hungry with some pain relief but it makes int harder to get out of bed in the morning. I am more interested in telling the younger generation in my family to watch out for certain side effects and not be surprised by or ignore them. They lost that job because they were late in in the mornings and not because the bioss was a bastard. I sow the seeds and they do with it what they will.

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  • Forgot to mention that I can only take paracetamol as a pain killer, orally, as all the others burn my stomach and make me feel bad. I use the Gell at times but my pain isn’t always localised.

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  • Hi, Olgun, (#19)

    I think it does boil down to the individual; you’re right. But it’s too bad that people smoke at age fourteen like I did. It is a very powerful drug and can easily inhibit the mental development of someone that age and aggravate already existing insecurities. It made me apathetic and afraid of my own shadow. I also thought I was ugly for years and years. (I have made progress in that area, and now, over thirty-five years since my last high, I regard myself as strikingly handsome.)

    I had, to be honest, some amazing experiences on pot. (But that was short-lived; it quickly turned on me, big time.) I used to love to watch movies and listen to music high. It makes you painfully aware of things too; I remember watching the “great” movie Casablanca stoned. I could appreciate that it was a well made film and all but I also could see how the director was manipulating the audience. Everything was about creating an effect…. Well it’s hard to describe the impression, but I became aware of the underlying commercial aspect or nature of the movie and perceived a contrived, artificial, manipulative quality, a loathsome straining for effect; and that impression would have eluded me had I not been smoking, or would have been much weaker. I became disgusted and switched the channel. That’s pot for you. It enhances one’s sensibility, makes you appreciate and love what’s good more and makes you recognize and hate what’s (subtly) insidious more.

    I want that sensibility without drugs. I get a piece of it here and there. Sensibility is something that has to be cultivated and earned. With pot one is often “drawing on sweets that one hasn’t earned,” as Norman Mailer said. But it does boil down to the individual; that’s true.

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  • q

    at a party for your first(?)

    No not first time by a long way. I started the Film Club at school with a mate to show friskier French and Italian “higher brow” movies. We were (are) hippies. It wasn’t just Gauloises smoke winding through the projector beam. Smoking controlled the rate of ingestion and with its fast hit you could control the effect. Never buying my own and keeping intake low meant I could be sociable without too much unpleasantness.

    Mind you I couldn’t roll a spliff to save my life. For some play production reason we were with just starting muso and later actor Mat Fraser. (Look up pic if you haven’t seen American Psycho to get the point of this.) I was charged with rolling the next spliff. Mat took one look at it and threw it away in disgust. He produced a work of art, tight enough and generously proportioned for sharing with enough flair for a more even draw throughout its length. I can see it even now. Pure artistry.

    Sadly, two of my friends were probably badly damaged by the stuff. Not a bad hit rate, though, and better than my favourite tipple which has killed more and closer. Chablis’s a bitch.

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  • alf

    I also hate the taste of alcohol like you Laurie. Makes me a drag at parties, as if I go to “parties”.

    It never ceases to amaze me how fellow party goers can’t seem to accept the fact that someone isn’t partaking of alcohol like they are themselves. Starting in high school and even to this day, if I try to walk around a gathering or dinner out with no alcoholic drink it’s only a matter of minutes before someone advances and presses a drink into my hands. I realize they’re trying to be congenial but by the time I explain that a few gulps of that beer will have me gagging or worse, I might as well just take the damn drink and walk around with it for the rest of the night. This seems to solve the problem.

    College keggers were the worst. The frat guys would have poured it down my throat for me if I let them. I do realize they had certain motives.

    I really feel sorry for alcoholics who are trying their hardest to stay sober when people around them are serving the stuff up to them gleefully.

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  • phil#23
    reminds one of hunter s thompson’s
    “The only thing that really worried me was the ether. There is nothing in the world more helpless and irresponsible and depraved than a man in the depths of an ether binge. And I knew we’d get into that rotten stuff pretty soon. Probably at the next gas station.”
    it’s a long way from old mus musculus gone to pot

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  • Did you guys hear that the justice dept. intends to step up the “war on drugs” again? Harsh penalties, raids, etc. Maybe Trump will implement that program that the Philippine President is so proud of. Trump thinks he’s completely awesome of course.

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  • Alf

    Dear chap, you could never be a drag at parties. You have the best jokes and pot is due for a return as cool I am reliably informed. I have listened to three serious business pitches for its more cost effective production recently…

    I took you with me (in non-supernatural spirit at least) on the London March for Science. As we folk get older our heritage becomes all the more significant. I wanted my lot, my kids, to know I was rooting for them above all else and my good friends were too.

    You’ll forgive me if I toast your just adequate health with this slug of Brancott Estate Sauvignon Blanc (I’m slumming it but, at least, I don’t get the circling bats with it).

    Inhale much!

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  • q

    Fear and Loathing became a shuddery favourite after our return from Amsterdam that time.

    I so love my mind and its rewards, and panic at its least hiccups. But it is relentless and a simple soporific can soothe me to sleep without anxiety.

    Hm? Maybe ether….

    Nitrous oxide is legit. Walking around a quaint little village near its bowling green I encountered six bottles of Budweiser on the grass, most unopened but still abandonned, I guess on account of being gnat’s piss, and a hundred used N2O cartridges. One of the old fogies was puzzled. This didn’t look like fun. But then Humphrey Davy knew how to throw Laughing Gas parties at the Pneumatic Institute in Bristol at the turn of the eighteenth century. We’ve lost the knack.

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  • Phil #23

    Only just got to listen to the link. WTF? Took me around the world with the music styles being layered as they are but not one at a time. The lyrics go from poetry to mundane, which must switch different parts of the brain on and off, and more I am sure I have missed. Am I over reading it? This is so clever that no way he meant it? Love to see a brain scan of someone listening to it.

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  • Just read his Wiki page. Not much there. Understand why he held onto some of those notes. Switching on the spiritual senses through Sufi influences.

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  • Ollie,

    He’s a fascinating guy. He mightn’t know how he does it but like many such he knows when he’s got it. The poetry ornaments a robust scaffolding of prose, itself rooted in reality quite as telling as Alan Benet’s daintier and judicious placing of a plate of custard creams. “Snoring like a pan of broth” though, can’t be overdone. Its construction withstands repeated inspection…well so far. The music is richer and more varied than at first it seems with its drone and clap taking us on a picaresque but relentless journey and slightly terrifying, bleak arrival at childhood’s exit.

    I’ve always loved down tuned guitars and his passionate, drive it ’til it fractures, use of guitar and voice and his need to leave in faults is as judicious as the placement of those custard creams. Faults, he points out, move continents.

    Wish I could pull that trick with my work….

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  • Laurie 24

    I really feel sorry for alcoholics who are trying their hardest to stay sober when people around them are serving the stuff up to them gleefully.

    Feel sorry for them; but keep this in mind: if they were “trying their hardest” they wouldn’t be at that party! They would stay far away. The fact that they chose to be or stay in an environment like that, especially at an early stage of their sobriety, means that they are not (yet) serious about staying away from the first drink.

    What confounds me is that some people eventually “get it” and some never do, as they cannot ever, ever admit that they are powerless over the deadly disease of alcoholism – and over “people, places, and things.”

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  • Dan #21

    Sorry didn’t reply. That piece of music freaked me out a bit lol.

    I agree that children should not be able to get at the stuff but alcholhol usually gets there first. I watch films and listen to music and it is great and I too appreciate films for camera work and manipulation of the audience. It is more interesting than some of the subject matter. I know exactly what you mean on that. Things seemed to have dulled a lot though. That is until I listen to something like Phil posted. That was a real buzz.

    One film I really hooked into was Twele Years a Slave. I have a projector and a large glorified shed we watch films in. I invited every one I know to come watch the film and feel what I felt but they just acted as the director wanted them to and squirmed in their seats. They were not interested in what I could see. The scene where the main character hangs by the neck shuffling his feet in the mud trying to gain a little height to relieve the pressure on his throats from the rope is amazing because the director holds on for longer than expected and then hangs on some more. You beg for relief by the end as dose the slave. It takes you to a point where you even beg the slave to just lift up his feet and hang himself so you can stop feeling his pain.

    I watch other smokers with caution though. I have never had a wild experience with it. It just stops all the parts of my brain talking at once and I can almost live in the moment. I have experienced films in the same way without smoking so am not sure it is necessary to do so but it seems to be a short cut.

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  • Laurie #26

    Madness in stilts…and wicked. This manufactures criminals from the poorest and most vulnerable.

    Given the lack of regulation and guidance about what Americans can and should put in their body, minimal quality meat stuffed with antibiotics, advertising trash food to kids without legislative restriction, sugar consumption beating the rest of the word by a handsome margin, this petty pickiness is simply political. Fighting wars coheres voting masses, whether inside Fortress America or outside….

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  • Dan

    Most Hollywood movies are maximally manipulative and especially in wartime. Indies fare much better in terms of allowing you freedom to discover things.

    Its interesting to compare the US (William Wyler) directed Mrs Miniver with say the UK’s A Canterbury Tale from Powell and Pressburger or even The Silver Fleet storylined by Pressburger and produced by them.

    The US movie made German pilots evil. There was no possibility of not knowing on which side God and the angels were. The bombed out church at the end stood for the determination that God would fight back. In a Canterbury Tale an altogether more humanistic struggle to get along is portrayed. An ordinary down home American soldier (played by an actual soldier) is mystified by stuck up Londoners but finds deep connections with farmers. A slightly silly plot evokes a lovely unforced warmth towards the everyday beauties of land and people. Though agnostic both, the Cathedral here is a receptacle for all people to join together again. Internationalist and embracing. The Silver Fleet about the Dutch struggle (needing much personal unseen sacrifice) under Nazi occupation rewrote Pressburger’s bully Nazi’s for more realistic, decent, only obeying orders types. The moral dilemmas of killing were not shirked and the drama only heightened.

    Wyler and Curtiz will manipulate you to the desired moral conclusion using the most fascistic medium ever invented. Others will loosen the reins quite a bit and trust you end up somewhere useful.

    Some of the greatest artists may grip you tight but leave you guessing where you will end up, not that they know for sure themselves…. Tarkovsky and the like.

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  • Phil

    Madness in stilts…and wicked.

    Madness, Phil? Wasn’t it you who was defending Haidt’s thesis that the right is “coherent” (which is meaningless)? And apparently conservatives have a broader moral sense than liberals, says that distinguished visionary, the author of The Righteous Mind. And you can’t say that Trump is not a right winger; he sure is.

    Do you see now why I was annoyed?

    …advertising trash food to kids.

    Terrible, yes.

    But I agree with Trump about this issue:

    Michelle Obama criticizes Trump administration’s school lunch policy

    100% whole-grain’s all the time? Maximum reduction of sodium at all times? No 1% milk only fully no fat milk? That’s a mistake right there. We all need fat; Michelle Obama is not up-to-date. And we have just learned new facts about sodium, I hear, which does not behave in the body as we thought it did.

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  • Sorry, Dan, this first paragraph maps to nothing I’ve said or believe. I really recognise nothing here. Except

    The right’s set of moral aesthetics is the coherent and stabilising one in the face of a war or disaster (and the left’s is the coherent and stabilising one in the time of plenty). There is no war. Right wing political leaders invent “wars”. They are liars.

    I haven’t the faintest idea why you were or are annoyed.

    Hang on….do you think I’m saying Laurie’s post is madness?

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  • And I said nothing about fat consumption or Michele Obama. WTF?

    The US is lower fat intake than say Germany or France. Fats are complex things. My kids need needed lots when growing and plenty of the right sort now…

    Sugar especially in beverages though consistently maps to diabetes II.

    PS a post on Casablanca has gone missing.

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  • Phil 37,38

    The manipulativeness that I picked up on on marijuana was not just about wartime movies and sending messages; it had to do with the very essence of all movies; most have one foot in profit, commercial success, entertainment. That’s okay, but on weed and I perceived something subtly insidious; it was anti-art… (Can’t really recall.)

    Sorry, Phil. I tried to find some past quotes from you about Haidt, failed. What is his thesis again? My impression is that you think he has some valuable things to say about the “misunderstood and maligned” Right. What? That quote above about their moral sense says it all; he doesn’t get it.

    The Democrats start plenty of wars, like Vietnam, partly because they are afraid of being labelled as weak and they overcompensate. Nothing Haidt has to say about the left and the right means very much, I’m afraid.

    The Right is mad and wicked. (Not Laurie’s post.) What else is there to say?

    I just threw that bit in about michele Obama; it has nothing to do with anything you said really. Sorry.

    Let me just finish up. Haidt. I haven’t a clue what you see in him. That may be my fault. But it seems like almost everything the man says about the left and right is fatuous and sweeping, is, in short, intellectual pollution. Some more quotes. A lot more where that came from:

    Social conservatives are very focused on strengthening the family, and I think they are right to do so. One of the worst blind spots of the Left has been its reluctance to say that marriage matters for children.

    Liberals have difficulty understanding the Tea Party because they think it is a bunch of selfish racists. But I think the Tea Party is driven in large part by concerns about fairness.

    Congress is full of good, decent, smart people who have devoted their lives to public service.

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  • P.S. I remember watching a Fred Astaire movie on pot! Same impression. I also remember seeing a movie with Alan Alda while stoned. He played a death row inmate, and I remember him being led to the electric chair. His expression! I was mesmerized. I remember thinking; now this is good. This is good.

    I love movies, and all kinds. But I was trying to describe an impression I had. I perceived something.

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  • You always conflate the right voting fodder with their leaders. Two entirely differently motivated groups. I spend my time teasing them apart to show this more heavily parasited and parasitising duo on one wing of politics. One day you’ll grasp my thinking.

    The Right is mad and wicked.

    Their leaders if they take this up. (Since when has the Justice Department been the right wing voting public?)

    I don’t care what Haidt’s opinions are, (they seem actually like he is trying to get the left to up its game. I wish they fucking would). But his lab generated facts help me inordinately and it is folly to diss them because Toxic Werdz.

    It is crucially important to understand the right (voting fodder) and it is not anywhere near competent or useful to say they are mad and wicked. That is their judgement on us too.

    Books and films for a time do your thinking for you, but films are the more fascistic because unlike books you couldn’t put them down and think after each sentence. But some films especially indie films are putting thinking space back. and not forcing rigid narratives. The latest bare costs of an indie movie have dropped off a cliff if you go non-union. My camera does 4k UHD video and I can edit it on this up-spec laptop. I have a rifle mic and for a £1000 I can get a shoulder carried steadi-cam mount. My phone has an app to let some one zoom and pull focus on the camera whilst another concentrates on framing. Special effects are a doddle and tracking aerial and high angle shots are iPad planned and executed on £1500 drone. Films increasingly are made for love and art. You need to seek them out.

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  • Good points. Leaders and the voters. Not the same. I get that. But look at some of the “fodder”, on the Fry thread – if you can. I put up a YouTube video of some fodder.

    I’ll lay off Haidt. Tired of trying to “understand” the right wing leaders or the voting fodder. I actually think I have a pretty clear grasp; it isn’t pretty; we’re talking about greed, bigotry, insensitivity and general stupidity; that’s “the disease of the right”.

    Talk to you soon. (Happy Mother’s Day. Not sure if they have that in the UK.)

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  • Indie film with big name star (well Michael Fassbender), cost $2m, recouped $1.4. (And I bet most investors were pretty happy to have helped make this.)

    Slow West.

    Space to think and beautiful to boot.

    I think I suggested it a year ago…

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  • Dan

    Yes you’re right about alcoholics and all addicts staying out of situations where they’ll be presented with temptation. My friend who has 15 years sober told me that even when she had one year sober she still kept her bad old address/phone book in her purse (in the old days when these existed – ha) and one day she was riding in her car down the highway and she reached in the purse, took that black book and threw it out the window. It was an important step with big symbolism for her. She has always suffered from the readily available booze all around her especially with a big Italian family that serves alcohol with meals and celebrations and once she called me in a panic because at Christmas, her employer surprised her with a big gift basket of several bottles of expensive vodka, whisky, etc. She wasn’t far from my house and she swung by and dropped it in my arms and went home all shook up. Poor thing. She said it was horrible in the beginning that she had to drive by a liquor store on every block.

    Little family joke:
    We used to take a certain route to a mall near here and one day one of my kids (preteen) asked in a disapproving tone, why a store would name themselves Liquor Land, as if it’s a really fun vacation place to visit. We thought that was funny (in a ridiculous way) so after that, every time we drove past it I (predictably) said loudly, “Hey kids! Where are we going for vacation this year??!!” They responded in unison, “LIQUOR LAND!!! YAYYYYY!”

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  • Just wait until that cracker Sessions sends his “feds” sniffing around the cannabis farms in the states that have legalized pot. Wait…why does this sound familiar to me…?

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  • Phil

    I read both books you recommended –On the Run by Goffman and Another Day in the Death of America by Younge. I thought they were both sad, important and wonderful good works.

    Speaking of books – I know we were of similar mind about the book Sapiens by Harari but have you read his new one Homo Deus? I wasn’t going to bother with it but it’s getting some buzz. One of the Algerian guys stopped in to recommend it to me (He’s a mechanical eng. prof) and I told him what I thought of Sapiens but this didn’t phase him in the least. I actually didn’t want to discourage this person from reading HD and I asked him what was interesting about the book. He immediately brought up a discussion of the soul and apparently Harari introduces the possibility of it not existing. I told our friend flat out that there is no such thing as a soul. He did not bluster back, just nodded slowly, sadly. He said, “And so..Heaven..” Me, nodding no. Him sad again. Then he accused me of being an anarchist. WTF? It’s just that there are so many books and so little time.

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  • Laurie

    Liquor land yay! Cute family story.

    No soul. I suppose you’re right; and yet when certain authors use the word – very good authors, like Joyce and Wilde – the word gratifies me, pleases me, inspires. It seems like no other word works. It’s a strange thing:

    “How clearly I saw it then, as now, I need not tell you; but I said to myself ‘At all costs I must keep love in my heart. If I go into prison without love, what will happen to my soul’?”

    Oscar Wilde, De Profundis

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  • Phil,
    Thanks for the appearance. I still am fighting a disk. MRI is tomorrow. They will operate soon I hope.
    My ex’s seventeen year old daughter thought I was “cool”. That means there is something wrong with one of us.
    Or both.
    I’ve had my own attempt at the resistance and a little success.
    I know a twenty something that was rooting for Trump and WAS a Republican.
    He now is a proponent of putting him on trial for treason. I can’t believe the turnaround.

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  • Alf

    17 huh? Then its official. You are a wrong’un, but at least officially cool.

    Hope the scan leads to the action. Bon chance…may the quantum states collapse in your favour.

    This twenty something is someone to quiz some more. Be nosey and report back.

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  • Homo Deus is not for me from the sound of it. I’m very far from his target audience I think. Fadetodraw is a great fan and clearly got a great deal of good stuff out of Sapiens. I’m sure he could tell us about HD. Fade?

    I got a great deal out of those two books and felt I understood more clearly how easily lives are blighted by even well intentioned policy. I’m glad you thought them worthwhile. Elsewhere on Patheos “The Tippling Atheist” a UK philosopher, is promoting the morality of an essentially non punitive method of dealing with crime. Simply the argument is that the most effectively utilitarian way of dealing with crime and criminals may be to forgo ideas of punishment, impose the cordon sanitaire needed and apply vigorous rehabilitation. For me I have always thought a society is complicit in its successes and failures. The great virtues and vices of individuals (save for psychopaths) are not theirs alone despite the American dream and Libertarianism.

    The problem with heaven has been multiplied by the Victorians. It was they who turned heaven into some great re-union party. (Book reference to go here.) Before then being with god was the only deal. Hollywood saccharined this up hugely. Now losing heaven is losing your once lost loved one’s all over again. This is something of a mirror to anticipated births. Falling in love with the bump is a new thing. Bumps were always more potential chicks rather than hatched. Much could and did go wrong and it didn’t do to go counting them too soon. Now little goes wrong and we create wrong and potentially much more hurtful impressions. Oxytocin takes its toll all the more when things do go wrong. The cruelness of the real world is a disincentive for the most deluded to leave their cotton wool world.

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  • Phil,
    I just watched an awesome short film with my students. It is called “the guide: a biologist in Gorongosa”. EO Wilson features rather prominently in it. But, one thing struck me enough to pause the film and draw my kids attention to it.
    There are poachers in the park. I want them to have horns and Hitler mustaches and reek of sulphur. They are interviewed. Their message is: “we are doing this out of abject poverty. Our families are starving and there are literally no options”. Then, during the “town meeting”, people speak their minds and this remarkable young man (the guide) offers a solution. They offer the poachers jobs. These men go from “killing machines” looking to harm big game to “protecting machines” that defend the park. Everyone is better for the interaction. Not all of this is overt in the movie.. rather, there are ancillary sources that I draw on.
    What an incredible and insightful way to approach and solve a problem. Treat everyone like human beings! LISTEN, learn, think, adjust…. find win/win solutions… Then I challenged my kids to contrast the way these human beings achieved a resolution with the way America does it. Their class discussion made me eager for their future and ashamed of our present.

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  • We are all guilty of the labelling thing and the vilification of the “other” team. The right is all mad and wicked. Nope. They are problem solving for themselves with a different set of inputs and a different processor. Then, they spit out a different solution. What makes anyone mad and wicked is the refusal to LISTEN to people who arrive at different solutions and then label them in order to facilitate their dismissal and invalidate their conclusions.

    Now, I will concede that almost every single GOP elected official, especially the “top hater”… “all mexicans are rapists”, “close the boarders” shit flinging chimpanzee, and especially his appointees (his “posse” as it would seem) Are, in fact mad and wicked, to extend that moniker to the GOP electorate is to do to them what we accuse them of doing to us and it is fundamentally counter-productive. Many of these people should be dismissed as simply mad and wicked, but, see, many are arriving at their flawed conclusions out of flawed input and we will never get to the root of the issue by making them pariahs.

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  • Watched I, Daniel Blake last night (Gut wrenching scene in the food bank). Shows how not to tackle a problem. If pot can help memory of the older generations, it should be made mandatory so we don’t keep making the same mistakes and impose them on our children.

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  • Dan

    Yes, I get it about the word “soul”. It has a poetic impact that no other word does. I feel that too.

    There are a number of words that I’ve tried to avoid because I don’t want to inadvertently give support to the religious agenda. “Design” is a no-no as well but I’ve slipped up with that one a few times. I’ve trained myself to use “evolutionary adaptation” instead of “design” but it’s a longer utterance and when in the company of the like-minded, I’ve used “design” with the qualification that I don’t believe in any designer except for natural selection. The secular bunch laugh at that and say “Ya, ya, I know what you mean.” I’ve said the same to others.

    So I think it’s the same with the word “soul”. I’d use it for the deep emotional effect but I guess I’d follow it with an explanation which would negate the very reason I used it in the first place. Ugh. Must we avoid these words altogether? What about our very satisfying forceful oaths? God damn you straight to hell !!!! and I swear to God that you will… I suppose a good atheist ought to surrender these parts of speech.

    In English, the use of oaths has lost much of its impact in favor of insults that refer to body parts and functions. A few hundred years ago, oaths against God were much more shocking than shit or even the c word. What I’m wondering now is this; will our youngest secularists who have been brought up completely outside of the influence of religious dogma be free of these oaths in their speech? Will the word “soul” slip down to the bottom of the word frequency list? What could replace it? Maybe someday hence our young people will be reading Joyce and Wilde and come upon the word “soul” and have to look to the margin of the page for an explanation of what this old archaic word meant in the time it was written on the page in the same way that I looked over for the meaning of “zounds!”

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  • Crooked

    We have few evolved and cultural resources to deal with living in super duper huge tribes. This is stuff still to figure out. It was noted by some anthropologists that the nature of a penal system seemingly needs to be ever more draconian, and visibly so, to manage bigger and bigger states. In the “””social contract””” and the trust needed to do you your vital cog of a job, you need reassurance that all others do theirs. Science fiction and Hollywood often imagine punishment to become entertainment for the masses, much as in the time of the Roman Empire.

    When you stop and think about the stuff of our daily lives, from gossip through to religion much is dedicated to signalling virtue and signposting culpability. Learning not to stigmatise trouble makers unduly in the interests of all will be a slow process. Scandiwegia have done well so far, but latterly with some pushback. Texas seem to have some new plans regarding the more cost effective treatment of drug “crime” and maybe simply viewing these crimes against the state in simple commercial terms is a way forward.

    Poacher turned gamekeeper is a transition that can work again and again. Helping folks find productive purpose, playing to their strengths is a trick to treasure.

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  • Soul music is a thing that roots the word as much as anything.

    I think people will always know it for its poetic aspiration. Soulless we may yet strive for one…without the least embarrassment.

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  • Re: Marijuana dulling the adolescent brain

    Phil, others (but mainly Phil)

    I have a question for you, my esteemed friend. I’d really appreciate some feedback; I’m having an attack of extreme anguish. I started smoking weed at age fourteen. I smoked a hell of a lot for about three years or four. I’ve been reading articles about the terrible effects this has on the developing brain. I think I’ve been avoiding facing this issue, although there is nothing I can do about it now. My concern is that I have harmed myself irreparably. You know quite a bit about the brain; is there, to your knowledge, a regenerative process or is the damage usually permanent? I haven’t smoked in over thirty-five years.

    As I said, I have been reading. There isn’t anything about regeneration; it all seems pretty grim. There are a lot of studies out there. I can’t find anything about the brain healing. They mention the hippocampus, the white and gray matter, the amygdala, all that stuff you’ve written about. I’m really bumming out now.

    “Marijuana hijacks normal brain functioning in teens, and many scientists believe the drug may have permanent effects on brain development.”

    Ugh! What did I do? No wonder I never finished college. 60 percent of all adolescent pot smokers were unable to finish college. That’s the least of it.

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  • Crooked


    When I was traveling in Peru some years back I noticed that there were some interesting opportunities in the rainforest there for what is now known as eco-tourism. The indigenous tribes were starting to participate in the protection and promotion of their lands and making a fair buck for it on the side. Seems like another of those win/win situations. I didn’t have time to check these out with my tight schedule at the time. We stuck to the highlands but next time around I’ll start with the lower elevations.

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  • Hey LaurieB,
    I hope you get back soon and I sincerely hope that the entire ecosystem (and it’s human inhabitants) are doing well. BTW, who better to guide and who better to turn a profit than the indigenous people? I hope exploitation does not creep in as is apt.

    A proper penal system ideologically strives to put itself out of business. And, that is so so so far from the current paradigm, that it most certainly will get worse and worse long before it gets better.

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  • Dan,

    Weed is pretty darned benign. Some very high strength stuff grown in the UK (skunk) is known to cause health problems for those genetically re-disposed towards those problems (like schizophrenia). The great majority of the stuff in a recent UK report apart from this was not correlated with any notable mental health problems.

    They used to think brains only changed through cell deaths. Now they recognise neural plasticity actually involves neurogenesis.

    If you want to link me to some of the most concerning stuff you’ve read, I’ll take a look at it and try and correlate it with the latest stuff out there. The latest brain stuff is so much better than the early.

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  • Hi, Phil,

    Thanks. This is the article that really shook me up. It has to do particularly with:

    Marijuana and the developing brain

    More states are legalizing marijuana, but concerns remain about its long-term effects on the adolescent brain.

    And the frontal cortex — the region critical to planning, judgment, decision-making and personality — is one of the last areas to fully develop, Gruber says.

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  • Phil, What I can’t understand why we have memory of our youth when the brain cells that we are originally born with are long gone. I understand the memories are stored in the connection synapses but don’t those go through regeneration? And if they do, does that mean the memories move from synapse to synapse?

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  • Dan, If you were a pot smoker and were in the Liberal Arts for a degree, I wouldn’t say that would be a impediment to learning. But if you are going for a Mechanical degree, or Electronics or Medicine, that would be a different story.
    So it really depends?
    I think the sixty percent failure rate needs to be elaborated on. Is there more data?

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  • enter code

    This twenty something is someone to quiz some more. Be nosey and report back.

    I will be quizzing him, I’ll report back. I tried yesterday but he started talking about someone needing to get Trump. I don’t think logic is quite his thing yet. But I will want to know the reasons he first supported him and now wants to “get him”. I’ve got to be careful however. Its not productive to rub anyone’s nose it in.

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  • Dan,

    I’ll seek out the original paper. But

    Health and Development Study, longitudinal research that has followed 1,000 New Zealanders born in 1972. Participants answered questions about marijuana use at 18, 21, 26, 32 and 38. They also underwent neuropsychological testing at ages 13 and 38.
    The team found that persistent marijuana use was linked to a decline in IQ, even after the researchers controlled for educational differences.

    There is no comment on historical use, only persistent use. Persistent use may indeed imply use at all ages indicated. This means current use given testing only at the last age group not say decades after that. Which is why the conclusion is

    Nor is it known whether the brain changes associated with marijuana use are permanent, or if the brain can recover with time.

    This doesn’t appear to factor in a number of variables. Let me go read the original if I can find it….

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  • alf

    How are you?

    What about learning to play a musical instrument on a professional level?

    Ah, this is ridiculous; there’s no way to know; I’m just driving myself nuts… Obsessive rumination; probably from all that pot I smoked.

    I just spilled a full cup of coffee on a whole bunch of charts (music). Was that you who nudged me, my invisible, ubiquitous, and mischievous friend? [Inside joke.]

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  • Thanks, Phil, for that clarification. Missed that.

    So the question is: how can one know, or can one know, decades later, if indeed one has suffered permanent damage or not (necessarily)? I’ll keep my fingers crossed, but I am afraid to hear what you may discover.

    (I’ve never taken an IQ test – not before, during, or since. And I never will, would never agree to do that…)

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  • Dan

    (I’ve never taken an IQ test – not before, during, or since. And I never will, would never agree to do that…)

    I wonder if you might have been tested for IQ when you were in elementary school like I was. In those days, some school systems tested all of their students along with other standardized tests and the result of that IQ test could be sitting there in your old school records along with other data. I don’t think they asked parents permission for this any more than they did for other tests in those days and I have no memory of an announcement in the classroom that we would now take an important IQ test.

    Based on what I learned from your Mom’s book, I am two years younger than you are and my IQ is right there in my school records. My mom never gave me and my brother those records and when we tried to pin her down asking what our IQ was she refused to tell us. All she would say is that we were one point apart. To this day I don’t know which of us has the one point higher but we spent years bickering over this and neither of us knows the answer to this day.

    The fact that my brother voted for Trump is very telling though, don’t you agree? I’m now very sure it’s me with the higher IQ. There is no greater proof of this and I’ll gleefully inform him of it the minute that Trump is impeached. Biding my time…patient as death…

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  • @Dan/LaurieB

    From what I can glean I’m a bit younger than you guys but I too took an IQ test in elementary school. For whatever reason I vividly remember taking this test and paying no special attention to it (though I admit, memory is slippery at best and this was a long time ago). I also remember my score, which was on the modest side (118 or 119 I believe). Dan, it sounds like you’re simply afraid of being disappointed. I think of IQ as an interesting, yet very unreliable indicator of anything except raw intelligence: i.e., the capacity to learn. I work with a computational semiotician who works on logical rules based systems for the genetics software we create and market at the company I work for. Richard is clearly something close to a genius. He is Polish with a thick accent and as an SME I have to interview him and then interpret what he says and translate it into easy flowing, contextual and marketable English for prospects or customers that ask granular questions about our genetics calculations (this happens more often than one might think). But Richard reminds me very much of some of the famous reclusive figures in mathematics. His IQ seems to be in the service of nothing other than his work. The rest of his life, as I understand it, is not at all enviable. He may have 30/40 IQ points on me but I’ll keep my life, thank you very much. I realize that is but one anecdotal situation but I thought it worth sharing.

    In the last 10 years I’ve taken a few of the more sophisticated IQ tests. I test consistently in the 120’s and 130’s. I’m not sure if this is accurate or if it’s because I take the test more seriously that I score higher now. Regardless, though my ego likes it, as my father used to say ‘that and $0.50 will buy you a cup of coffee’. Of course now it’s $3.50. But he’s right. It’s meaningless. Unless I’m interested in one of the high IQ clubs (I’m not) which even my higher scores don’t qualify me for.

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  • Steven007

    as my father used to say ‘that and $0.50 will buy you a cup of coffee’.

    haha That’s cute. I agree with your take on IQ. Knowing mine didn’t change anything for me. I’ve met people who have lower IQ that mine and they’ve been very successful in life and some with IQ much higher than mine who I don’t envy at all. Then there are those who I know immediately have about twenty points higher than I do and in that moment I know they’re being patient with me. sigh. Doing the best I can with what I got.

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  • Alf ,

    Our neurons are mostly for life. New neurons are generated in specific regions like the hipocampus (associated with memory) but how they are used is not understood. They are not generated in the cortex as far as we know. Storing memories is not a simple one memory to one neuron. Each neuron is a complex machine with many states and potential processes residing in its interconnections with other neurons. In some ways memories are stored a bit like a data banks RAID system, with disks backing each other up, but a bit more crap but also a bit cleverer. Memories index each other and to an extent can be recreated following a neuron death. Good enough restoration occurs when you struggle for that name and find it again elsewhere knowing it was that guy in Animal House and the Halloween follow on. Ah, its, its whatsisname….. And a new link or two is created with a healthy neuron once you get it via a third thing…

    Each memory access rewrites the memory with an extra bit of meta information that heightens retrievability from other directions though a little bit of wish remembering might creep in at each stage. We aren’t in the least picky about the quality of a restoration, mostly leaving it to our subconscious heuristics to finish the job.

    Uber connected and reconnected makes for more stable if happier memories.

    Oh him!

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  • My ex-wife once asked the rather pungent but horribly reasonable question, “If you’re so clever why aren’t we rich?” I was stumped…

    I was an H.J.Eysenck fan in my teens and discovered I could do his silly tests better and better, getting into the habit of them. What useful trait they revealed, though, mystified me. You could learn to solve solvable puzzles easily enough if you had the patience it seemed to me. But it didn’t show how you could solve problems that were still actually problems, the ones that actually matter. Girls… WTF? and later, filling in tax returns… how is death not preferable?

    I’d kill for social skills and a decent accountant, any musical ability, coordination in general, street smarts….and on and on… We are all uncommonly what each other needs.

    alf, lost post to you on memory.

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  • Phil, forget about the memory stuff and about irreparable harm caused by pot. It’s fruitless to dwell on this. But it’s up to you.

    Laurie, no IQ test was ever given to me.

    I prefer not to know things like that. Terrible to go through life thinking one’s IQ is this or that and then feel inhibited or limited. I don’t believe in IQ tests.

    The mind must be able to allow one’s mind to expand without limits.

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  • Steven,

    I have been worrying about the general long term and possibly irreversible effects of marijuana use, and had been wondering (again) how much of a factor that has been in my (up till now) strange and difficult life. But as I just said, it’s fruitless and neurotic to dwell on that now. What can I do, go back in time? Besides, I am happier now than I’ve ever been.

    (Glad it was just the cat.)

    Corrected sentence from #74: One must must be able to allow one’s mind to expand without limits.

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  • Memories index each other and to an extent can be recreated following a neuron death.

    Phil, Is it somewhat like a source code, but some bits are lost and partially recreated?

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  • I just spilled a full cup of coffee on a whole bunch of charts (music). Was that you who nudged me, my invisible, ubiquitous, and mischievous friend? [Inside joke.]

    Sorry Dan, that wasn’t me. I only do sneak ins to hide peoples pills. That’s another department.

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    The Segway is fun. But is it worth the cost? Not according to the market. The minds behind the Segway may be sophisticated and technologically brilliant, but they appear to be somewhat naive when it comes to business. Perhaps their excitement over the technology clouded their ability to challenge their market assumptions to any significant degree.

    My eldest son got a 160 (max for an under 16 we were told) at the age of 15 and joined Mensa. The one thing that sticks out for me is he knows what he wants and seems to have always known. As much as I pushed him to use that brain of his to the limit, he found a way to become popular and do well at his lessons. He made sure he was not with the “toffs”, as he used to call them. Although the other kids were from relatively rich families, my sons ability to party and help with their homework had him change from the unhappy outsider to a full happy member.
    He is now earning more than others of his age in similar jobs and seems to be a favourite of his bosses. Did I mention he is tall, slim and handsome. Played rugby and likes a drink. “I got 130(ish) on a free IQ test once….yaaaay…..

    Chris Griffin, “they don’t call it dope for nothing dad”!!!

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