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Final lecture, and still didn't make the lecturer cry. - Tactical Ninja

Mar. 26th, 2013

09:38 am - Final lecture, and still didn't make the lecturer cry.

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I woke up this morning and realised that it's a short week this week. Thus ensued excited bouncing. I think four days off in a row warrants excited bouncing. I'm not sure my bedmate agrees. Woops.

I'm not into the God thing at all, but I reckon Jesus was a Dude (the good kind, the Dargaville definition of Dude), and frankly, I doubt he'd be into all the prostration and worship stuff but I bet he'd get a kick out of seeing how excited some of us *cough* get over having a few free days to engage in hedonistic pursuits, you know?


I also realised last night that Psychedelic Science is in less than a month. Cue minor freakout. It's not as if I'm not ready in practical terms - I have my plane ticket, hotel is booked, visa waiver thingy that the US now demands from us sorted, savings for cost of hotel and fripperies put aside - but it's been a while (7 years OMG) since I travelled to the US by myself, and this is a *shock horror* networking event. Which means I have to *gasp* network.

I'm not very good at networking. Contrary to popular opinion, I'm actually kind of shy in social situations, and unlike the vast majority of the population, I can't drug myself up on alcohol to make myself more sociable. I picture myself at this thing, sitting in a corner and being too afraid to talk to anyone. Fact is, I'd probably still get a lot out of it even if I didn't interact with another human being for the whole time, because the topics are awesome and the speakers are at the top of their field.

And then I tell myself to get over myself. This is why I signed up for a workshop on the first day. Workshops are inherently icebreakers, because they inevitably involve group discussion, and I'm ok with interacting with strangers when there's a shared purpose. The workshop will give me the opportunity to have already talked to people by the time the conference proper starts. Hopefully I'll have been interesting enough, and found other interesting enough people, that I can overcome the desire to run and hide because I genuinely want to talk to these people about their stuff, and we already have some known common ground.

This is my hope, anyway. I'm told that at conferences, the most important stuff happens between and after the talks - and that's the bit where I really don't shine. I would like to get more shiny at this, because I know that in future it's going to become more important.

But I'm just a little bit terrified. Partly because of my stupid inferiority complex and partly because OMG roomful of strangers in a foreign country who (in my mind) all know far more about everything than I do, and hey remember, I'm just a mongrel puppy that bounced in among the aristocratic greyhounds and started chewing on their tails. And I really don't want to be the social-skills equivalent of that.

But you know, I'm currently reading David Nutt's book Drugs Without the Hot Air, which was published in 2012. He's at the top of his field and will be speaking at the conference. I'm about half way through, and so far there's been nothing surprising in there. I am still learning, but there are no new concepts. This tells me that I am pretty well up with the play as far as drug policy related topics go, and that I'm not about to embarrass myself with ignorance among the greyhounds. But in my mind I am just a sheep shearer from Dargaville who read a few books and thought about it a lot, you know?

And again, I say "Get over yourself Tats." What I really need is the networking equivalent of PUA, I reckon. Anyone got a formula for this sort of thing? Preferably one that is actually respectful and useful, rather than delusional like a lot of the PUA stuff is? I'm serious. Good networkers must have techniques they use for getting started. Once I'm actually talking with people I'm ok, but I tend towards stumbling ineptitude when it comes to striking up conversations, and I really don't want to do that here.

Me: Hi, I'm Tats.
Important Drug Policy Person: Hi, I'm IDPP.
Me; That's a funny name, were your parents on drugs? BAHAHAAAA I AM SO FUNNY

*facepalm*

Oh dear, call the waaahmbulance.

*cough* In other news, the lecture last night was better than expected. I pulled him up more than usual:

1. No, shock/horror advertising campaigns don't actually deter people from using drugs and in fact in some cases they have glamourised the use of particular substances (see also: heroin chic). This is well documented.

2. No, long-term drug use does not damage the frontal cortex. For a start, which drug do you mean? And secondly, the only illegal substance that's been shown to cause any form of brain damage is methamphetamine, and even that is reversed upon cessation.

3. Yes, the multicriteria decision analysis on drug-related harms that was led by David Nutt:



Did take into account the number of people who use alcohol.

Anyway, by the end of the class he was calling on me to fill in details of things like the effectiveness of the anti-smoking campaigns in New Zealand, the results of the decriminalisation of drug use in Portugal, and the drop in harms related to alcohol after the repeal of Prohibition in the US.

Unbeknown to me, one of the other class members was apparently a high-up in policy for the NZ Police. Heh. To me, that makes it more important to call out the misinformation aspects of the lecture - because the police tend to be just as misinformed as everyone else when it comes to drugs. I recall recently reading a news article (can't find it, sorry) in which an 'expert' had given a talk to police that included the debunked myth that ecstasy puts holes in your brain. If that's the quality of information the police are being given, me speaking up in class in front of these people is important. *sigh* I shouldn't have to, damnit.

I didn't know what to say about the guy's theory that transcendental meditation can cure everything from addiction to the desire to take drugs. I did point out that while yes, humans do have a long history of meditiation for the purpose of spiritual and personal development, we also have a long history of using substances to achieve an altered state, and that wanting to experience an altered state is not necessarily a sign that there's something wrong with you, because humans are curious and also because we enjoy things that are fun purely for their own sake. Witness kids spinning in circles till they fall down dizzy. But the transcendental meditation cure-all? Yeah, um. Nah. Dude's also big into abstinence-as-harm-reduction and there wasn't time to tackle that.

Instead, afterwards I approached him and suggested that he also read Nutt's book as it will strengthen his knowledge on the drug policy aspect of his topic. If he does read it, he might have some dawning realisations on the realities of the drug policy world rather than his somewhat sketchy current opinions. He took it pretty well, but I know I was going easy on him. I did mention how plagued my field is with misinformation and how I'd like to help it not be like that though. ;-)

I have the evaluation form for the course in my email inbox right now. Lalalla..


Meanwhile, I've printed out the test code for the LED strip, for the purpose of pulling it apart to see how it works, which will hopefully help me work out how to make it fit what I want to do.

Dr Wheel laughed at the thought of me walking around with my ream of paper that contains code. I think it's eminently sensible myself...

Comments:

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From:tatjna
Date:March 25th, 2013 08:59 pm (UTC)
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Oddly enough, one of the things that came up last night was the possibility of Afghanistan entering the legal opium market, what with it being an ideal place for opium poppies* to grow and all. Seems that the other main legal opium growing nations (which include Australia, India, England (??) and I can't remember the other one) aren't keen. Can't think why.

And you're right, I could totally grow poppies. I could probably convince other people to do it too, but Ms Big Pharma doesn't roll all that well off my tongue. ;-/

* The Wairarapa's spectacular poppy-growing climate is a well-kept secret.

Seriously though, I am wondering if there'll be any other kiwis there. Apart from the ones giving the presentation on the Ibogaine study, that is.
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From:tatjna
Date:March 25th, 2013 09:00 pm (UTC)
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PS what the hell should one wear to a conference formal dinner thing (the main one with the keynote speaker like)?
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From:richdrich
Date:March 25th, 2013 09:15 pm (UTC)
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I've read Dr Nutt's book and while it was generally good, I was interested in how it differed from Ben Goldacre (in Bad Pharma) on the area they where they intersect - prescription medications:

To paraphrase:
Nutt: the pharmaceutical industry is responsible, does effective testing, and has cleaned up its act. SSRIs do what it says on the box.

Goldacre: the pharmaceutical industry are a dodgy bunch of fucks that I wouldn't trust as far as they can be collectively thrown. It's debatable whether SSRIs are better than placebo.

I'd like to see them debate this in the Thunderdome...
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From:tatjna
Date:March 25th, 2013 09:25 pm (UTC)
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Nutt:


Goldacre:


I suspect that Goldacre has both the reach and the flexibility, just saying.

I haven't got to that part of the book yet, but a quick google around suggests that such a debate hasn't happened yet, and that Goldacre has a lot of admiration for Nutt and his book(based mostly on twitter posts by goldacre). Not to say this means they agree. Maybe you should suggest it to them? I'd pay to see it, as long as it was with words and not actual chainsaws.
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From:wildilocks
Date:March 26th, 2013 12:19 pm (UTC)
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I'd like to see a third party pointing out that actually there is significant evidence that SSRI's not only are no better than placebo but for the majority of people who are prescribed them, they are not actually needed, and are actually harmful.

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From:goffburd
Date:March 25th, 2013 09:51 pm (UTC)
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Good on you for correcting him - it's important for them to know the facts, especially if the police are there too. Might be good for them!

You'll do fine at the Networking thing - it's strange how a lot of the noisiest vessels on LJ are actually quite shy in real life! It's the same with me.
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From:tatjna
Date:March 25th, 2013 10:05 pm (UTC)
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Heh, yeah. I have no trouble sharing the minutiae of myself in writing, but people are hard. And I make them out to be harder than they really are, because most people are pretty awesome really, right?
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From:hullabalo_o
Date:March 25th, 2013 09:54 pm (UTC)
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years ago I was in a "Miracle" play (in short medieval plays warning everyone to believe in god! I'm not religious I just felt it would be good and it sure was) ANYWAY! the bloke who played Jesus WAS indeed a dude and got 40% off the local builders merchants useless info but this always highly amused me!
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From:tatjna
Date:March 25th, 2013 10:04 pm (UTC)
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Well, you know, he was a carpenter by trade 'n' all...
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From:ferrouswheel
Date:March 25th, 2013 10:15 pm (UTC)
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BTW - as much as people say the best stuff is the talking to people during breaks, it's still perfectly acceptable to just enjoy the talks! There have been plenty of times when I've not been in the mood to network/meet people, and end up hanging out by myself during days at the conference.
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From:tatjna
Date:March 25th, 2013 10:18 pm (UTC)
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I'm quite glad that I'm staying at the hotel that's hosting the conference. This means that if I get 'peopled out' I can run away to my room and read a book or something. ;-)
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From:Will Marshall
Date:March 25th, 2013 10:27 pm (UTC)
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So I totally just signed two tracks to Broken Robot Records.

Like this:

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From:tatjna
Date:March 25th, 2013 10:29 pm (UTC)
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Apparently you are a suspicious comment.

I think you should make a track called Suspicious Comment.
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From:tatjna
Date:March 27th, 2013 03:45 am (UTC)
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Now that I've had a chance to listen to this, I really like it, especially after the drop at 5:13. It's a bit of a departure from your previous work and yay for new stuff.
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From:rivet
Date:March 26th, 2013 02:06 am (UTC)
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Get personal business cards made. You'll be needing these more and more in the future.
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From:tatjna
Date:March 26th, 2013 02:12 am (UTC)
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What does one put on a personal business card?

Poppies?

(i have some undies with poppies on them)

Edited at 2013-03-26 02:12 am (UTC)
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From:dianavilliers
Date:March 26th, 2013 02:54 am (UTC)
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So you're worried about being a shearer doing academic stuff? Here ya go, have a video of academics shearing.

I don't know if it will make a sheep-knowledgable person laugh or wince. I can't help but think that the chasing and washing bits must be stressful on the poor animals.
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From:tatjna
Date:March 26th, 2013 03:40 am (UTC)
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That was fascinating, and the sort of thing I'd love to do one day.

Gotta say though, I'm glad they dispensed with the washing thing before the 20th Century. Wool is way easier to wash when it isn't fighting back.
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From:(Anonymous)
Date:March 26th, 2013 10:35 am (UTC)
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Just today I watched a film of the Golden Shears final. The winner sheared 20 sheep in just over 15 minutes.
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From:meathiel
Date:March 26th, 2013 06:22 am (UTC)
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If you ever find out how one can get better at networking and social skills let me know ... ;-)
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From:tatjna
Date:March 26th, 2013 06:39 am (UTC)
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I ordered some cards. Maybe I can stick them all over myself and people can just take one in lieu of conversation. ;-)
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From:pundigrion
Date:March 26th, 2013 09:00 pm (UTC)
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Sooo, I can't help with your specific conversational topic, *but* I can share the best tips and tricks for dealing with social events of a large and foreign nature that I have found/read so far.

Confidence: We all know the fake it until you make it thing, but sometimes faking it is more than attitude. My favourite shortcut is attire. If you are slightly dressed up or wear bright colours, people automagically assume you must be confident to be wearing such things. Ditto goes for simply wearing unconventional things. The funny thing of it then is people will walk up to you assuming you are confident which oddly makes it so much easier to play the role!

Give them an in: Along with looking more confident what you wear or carry can have another bennie. The easiest way I have found to strike up a conversation when intimidated is to compliment someone on something. Is that a Buckyball tie tack? Fantastic! Even better, if this doesn't lead to a conversation, you can breeze off without feeling as awkward and just try the next person. On that same vein, I make sure to have something other people can use to pull the same trick with me. If other people come to me, it keeps me from having to work up any nerve of my own. Win!

Workshops are always a good idea and if you are lucky, that will lead to a little group of folks you can cling to at first which makes it easier to meet more. If you tell people it is your first conference invariably there will be one or two people that will take you under their wing. It might take a couple of tries to find a good "mother hen" but these people are often super gregarious and will do their best to hook you up with other folks in your field because that is how their brains work. It makes both of you happier I figure :-)
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From:tatjna
Date:March 26th, 2013 09:26 pm (UTC)
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This is true - it's a thing I've noticed at festivals and such, that I tend to have people approach me because I wear interesting outfits and have crazy hair. They assume I'm interesting and confident because of that. It never occurred to me that the principle could transfer to a conference setting though.

Thanks!
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