Thursday, February 28, 2013

Maine city votes to change name from "Portland" to "Panhandle"

The city formerly known as "Portland, Maine" has voted to change its name to "Panhandle Maine."  The vote came about after an alarming increase in the number of people visibly begging along city roadways.  The problem was most acute in the late fall of 2012, when the spectacle of two, three and sometimes four people jockeying for position on the same street corner became a common sight. 

City officials commissioned a study, and discovered that fully one out of every two adults in the city is a homeless person who holds a cardboard sign and asks passersby for money at traffic stoplights and along median strips.  The city Tax Department also did an exhaustive audit of their files and found that "Homeless" (including alternative spellings such as "Homless" and "Hoamles") was far and away the source of income most often described on city tax records.  "Social Worker" was a distant second, followed by "Barista."  "Municipal Employee" was fourth, with "Lawyer" in fifth place.  There were no other jobs mentioned.

"We feel like Panhandle Maine sends the right message," said mayor Michael Brennan.  "It really tells you what this town is about.  And you'll notice we took the comma out between the words Panhandle and Maine.  That's because it's not just a name, it's also a command.  It's an exhortation.  We want you to get out there and really do it, really get after it.  You've heard of Ski Maine?  You've heard of Build Maine?  Well, we're Panhandle Maine, and we're proud."

The Mayor went on to add that city councilors are currently exploring the possibly of adding an exclamation point to the name, which would effectively make the city "Panhandle Maine!"  The City Attorney, notably both a Municipal Employee and a Lawyer, was thought to be studying the constitutionality of such a move at press time.   

Monday, February 18, 2013

Can you feel better on a banned performance enhancer?

Me & OJ.  NBA player OJ Mayo served a ten-game suspension in 2011 after he tested positive for DHEA.  Stanley Kubrick loaned him that chair to sit in while he wasn't playing.

If you're anything like me, you spend your life careening from being severely bummed out, to optimism that borders on delusion, to periods of fear and loathing, and finally paranoid terror.  It's fun!

Eh, not really.

Recently, a naturopathic doctor recommended that I start taking a supplement called DHEA.  DHEA is short for Dehydroepiandrosterone.  Yeah, it's a mouthful, and with a name like that you know it's gotta be a steroid.  Which it is.  In fact, it's the most abundant steroid that the human body produces, and it appears to help the body manufacture both testosterone and estrogen.

Although DHEA is available over the counter in the United States, it's a prescription drug pretty much everywhere else.  It's also a banned substance in sports, policed by the World Anti-Doping Agency.  Several professional and amateur athletes have been temporarily suspended from competition for using it.  

I was reluctant to take it.  Long-term, nobody knows what this shit can do to you.  Some researchers believe that long-term use of DHEA can lead to prostate cancer in men, and breast cancer in women.  There's no hard and fast evidence that that's true.

Here's what is known to be true:

- Numerous studies have shown that low doses of DHEA (25 to 50 milligrams per day) for periods up to a year have few if any side effects.

- Levels of DHEA peak in your 20's and slowly fall as you age. By the time you reach 40 (as I have already done), your body makes about half as much DHEA as it used to. By 65, levels drop to 10 to 20 percent; by age 80, it plummets to less than 5 percent.

- Numerous studies, including large-scale studies, have shown that supplementation with DHEA alleviates depression, especially in middle-aged and elderly people.  Also, low levels of DHEA are associated with higher rates of depression.

My doctor thinks the mindless, random terror I experience, and my frequent bouts of health anxiety are actually symptoms of depression.

Okay.  So I started taking the stuff.  I mean, what the heck, right?

Sure, I'm only taking a tiny amount for starters (about 5 mg a day), and I have to constantly refrain from administering a prostate self-exam. 

But I'll tell you what.  I feel a little better.  I have more energy than before, and it's not frantic, panicked energy.  For example, I've gone skiing three times in the past two weeks.  That's a big deal.  Just a month ago, the mere thought of getting on a ski lift made me dizzy and afraid.  Now I'm ripping up the hillsides pretty good.

And I've just started working on a new book, after months of not doing anything constructive at all.

Could be DHEA is just what the doctor ordered.      

Then again, could be a lot of things.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

How to Smuggle Dope into the US from Canada

The Peace Arch border crossing between British Columbia and Washington State.

When you think of the phrase "illegal drug trade," you probably don't often think of the word "Canada" during that same thought.  Usually, you probably think the word "Mexico."  This is natural, because the drug trade from Mexico gets all the headlines.

It turns out that Canada, and especially the province of British Columbia, is one of the major sources of high-quality marijuana coming into the United States.  The Council on Hemispheric Affairs estimates that anywhere from 60% to 90% of all the marijuana grown in Canada is smoked in the United States.  The trade could amount to as much as $20 billion a year, making marijuana the most lucrative agricultural product Canada produces, one that employs hundreds of thousands of people.  

So let's just say you want to bring some of this dope into the US for yourself.  The border between the two countries is 4,000 miles long, and not exactly what you'd call heavily defended.  Even so, it might not be immediately obvious how to go about it.  Here is a way that has been described to me by someone who has pulled it off.  The method isn't without risks, but has apparently worked more than a dozen times without a single failure.  Proceed with caution in any event, and don't blame me if something goes horribly, horribly wrong.

You will need three things to carry out this method: a reliable car, outfitted with a secret storage compartment; a good place to cross; and a mule to carry the drugs, one who is unlikely to attract much attention.

1. The Car.  Pretty much any late-model sedan in good to excellent condition will do.  The inside is clean and well-kept.  The outside doesn't have to be immaculate, but no big dents, no broken lights, no obvious rust.  Depending on the size of the load you want to bring across, you have options on where and how to build your storage compartment.  For example, you can create a false bottom in your trunk.  If you're planning to bring a lesser amount across, you can always build a compartment inside your dashboard.  The possibilities are as wide as your imagination.

2. The Crossing.  An excellent place to cross is the Peace Arch border crossing between Blaine, Washington and Surrey, British Columbia.  It's a good place because it's close to where the dope is grown.  It is also a hugely busy border crossing, the busiest US-Canada crossing west of Detroit.  The sheer volume of visitors means that most visitors are unlikely to get much scrutiny from the border guards.  Further, this is a crossing that literally thousands of bargain-hungry shoppers from Canada pass through each day.  The combination of high sales tax in Canada; the rise to parity of the Canadian dollar; an increase in duty-free limits; and American free-trade policies that mean retail stores in the US are cheaper than ones in Canada, make the big box stores in Bellingham, WA an irresistible destination for Canadians.  This is important because your mule is going to look like a shopper.

3. The Mule.  First and foremost, the mule is someone who can remain calm during stressful situations.  If everything goes according to plan, the mule will have to do no more than exchange a few pleasantries with the border guard.  Considering she'll be driving a car loaded with illegal drugs, this would be enough to give a normal person a very visible nervous breakdown.  Your mule will not be a normal person.  She will be Grace Under Fire.  And yes, it will be a she.  Your mule should be a woman, middle-aged to early senior citizen, wearing nice, but casual and comfortable clothes.  See, your mule is going bargain shopping at the Costco in Bellingham. 

As an aside, make sure your mule is a white woman.  Under no circumstances try to send anyone of any other race across as a mule.  An open secret about the US-Canadian border crossings is that racial minorities get hassles that white people don't get.  Also, when the mule goes home at the end of the day or the next morning, carry the cover story through to the end and make sure the car is full of stuff that she purchased at Costco during her visit to the United States.  Hell, make sure she has the receipt. 

There you have it.  A three-step tried and true method for bringing dope over from Canada.  Give it a shot, be careful, and let me know how it goes.