certain The Boeing Company Model 777 airplanes. This proposed AD was prompted by a report of cracking in the fuselage skin underneath the satellite communication (SATCOM) antenna adapter. This proposed AD would require repetitive inspections of the visible fuselage skin and doubler if installed, for cracking, corrosion, and any indication of contact of a certain fastener to a bonding jumper, and repair if necessary. We are proposing this AD to detect and correct cracking and corrosion in the fuselage skin, which could lead to rapid decompression
and loss of structural integrity of the airplane.
Linking to this again. So grateful we got to experience him on stage.
Pavlov’s Dog Does Heroin, Finds God
Pavlov’s Dog Does Heroin, Finds God
By Susi Johnston
It is 2018 and heroin is legal. But it’s only sold in Department of Public Health dispensaries. To get it, you have to show your ID, then do an automated verification process. The process is like this:
You sit in a booth that’s kind of like those reading carrels in libraries, like an office desk cubicle, but a small one. Instead of a keyboard and computer screen, there’s a binocular viewer above the desk at head-height, kind of like the ones they use for eye tests, plus a pair of headphones and a set of handgrips that are more or less like video game grips. There’s also a card-swipe thing where you swipe your ID.
After you swipe your ID, a camera on top of the binocular visor thing takes a picture of you. Then you put on the headphones, lean forward to look into the binocular thing, and grab the handgrips. If you close your eyes for longer than a standard blink, an error message pops up, and the verification process starts over again. If you have three errors, then you have to go to the front counter of the dispensary, and they send you to another room where you have to wait, and then talk to a counsellor or a doctor before you can do the verification process again. Same goes, if you take off the headphones. It’s never happened to me. Yet.
The way this system works is that every time you go to buy heroin, the AVP system shows you a video with information about opiates, health, general mental wellbeing, life skills, and other stuff. The video programs are always different, although there are sometimes bits of them that come up more than once, at least in my experience. Then you have to answer some questions by using the handgrips. They have buttons on them and you can move them around like you can with a video game.
The visor and the handgrips also record biodata, like your eye movements, pupil contraction and dilation, temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, and stuff like that. They also have little needles that take a tiny blood sample from one of your fingers, but you never know which finger on which hand it will be, and you hardly feel a thing when the needle pricks your finger anyway. The cubicles also record your weight while you’re sitting there.
At the end of the verification video and Q&A, the screen gives you a slide show of your previous head-shots in chronological order, then a digitally-morphed video of them, like an animated revelation of how you’ve been changing. Time is compressed and truth exposed. That’s pretty interesting. Or depressing. I’ll bet it’s going to get really depressing after this program’s been going on for ten or twenty years, having to watch yourself age all over again on a regular basis. When you watch the slide show and morph-vid, you can see how sometimes for a while you might have been looking pretty awful, and then other times a lot better. It’s a strange feeling. It kind of pins you down on a precise spot in the bigger context that you’re existing in. Life is happening. Time is happening. You’re right here, smack-dab in the middle of it, exactly where you are. No illusions. No revisions. No faking. It’s harsh, I guess. But also comforting, somehow. At least for me, anyway.
The next part of the automated verification process (AVP) shows a summary report about you, covering your accumulated data since you started buying legit heroin, including a graph of your use pattern over time. In the final bit of the AVP they give you information about quitting, about free rehab programs, DIY quit options, and private clinics and centres. They also give you some options to try a range of AVP-based detox protocols over time, on your own, within the system. You can opt into one of those using the handgrips right then and there, and the AVP system will adapt to shape your use patterns as you reduce them, aiming for your target date to get clean. You can opt out of your protocol, too. Anytime. And opt back in, or pick another one. Anytime. Basically they invite you to quit, and suggest how to do it, and they also show you stories in the videos of people who have quit already.
The whole multimedia part of the AVP experience takes about twenty minutes. It varies, though. It’s not always the same amount of time. It’s customised according to your history and accumulated data, combined with current scientific understanding of opiate addiction in general. When it’s over, you go to one of the dispensary windows (like a bank-teller window), swipe your ID again, get your heroin and pay for it.
That’s all there is to it, except once every two weeks or so, when you have to talk to a counsellor before you’re allowed to get your heroin. The counsellor chat is usually about fifteen minutes, sometimes half an hour, sometimes longer. The AVP system works out how often you’re supposed to talk to a counsellor.
In the dispensaries, you can buy as much or as little heroin as you feel like buying that day, but there’s a top-end limit that you can’t exceed. It’s determined by your data in the AVP system, but they don’t tell you what it is. If you ask for too much, they just tell you to specify a smaller quantity. If it gets complicated, you get sent to the counsellors or a doctor, and then things go forward from there.
The heroin comes in two different forms; powder and injectable. The powder comes in clear capsules. Both the capsules and the powder in them are not water-soluble. The injectable heroin is liquid, and it’s packaged inside little stubby disposable syringes. There are different dose sizes available, numbered 1 to 5. The AVP system also keeps track of what dose sizes you’re allowed to buy. I used to buy 2’s or sometimes 3’s. I asked for a couple of 4’s once, and they let me buy them. I’ve never asked for a 5.
The thing about these disposable syringes is that they really are disposable. When the plunger is pushed down all the way, it hits a plastic locking ridge, and you can’t pull it back out again without breaking the whole rig apart. And the syringes all get recycled, too. You bring them back in when you go to buy heroin and get a small discount on your purchases in exchange. If you fail to bring in as many syringes as you take out, I guess the AVP system records that, too. The syringes don’t get recycled by, like, cleaning and then reusing them; the different parts (plastic, steel), get separated out and become raw materials again for some huge syringe factory somewhere.
There are dispensaries all over the city. Some are big ones, with rows of AVP stations and multiple counsellors and doctors. Those are mostly at big public hospitals. Others are small, usually at supermarkets or drugstores, with only one AVP station. Some are open 24/7 (mostly the small ones inside drugstores).
Since they legalised heroin and started this system early last year, it’s completely changed the whole aura around heroin. It’s no longer cool among any circles to be a junkie. It’s no cooler or uncool than drinking or not drinking. B.O.R.I.N.G. in other words.
Government statistics and independent reports showed a spike in heroin use during the first six months of the program, but it’s debatable whether that was a real increase, or just the effect of having more information about actual use. They might have underestimated heroin use before it was legal. When the program started there were tons of public proclamations predicting that heroin use would decline and eventually disappear or almost disappear after it was legalised. Actually, the level of use only went down a little bit after the initial spike, and it’s just stayed pretty much right there ever since, no matter how hard they’ve tried to help people quit, and in spite of the loss of the cool factor and the edginess and thrill that used to go with junkie business in general. I guess a lot of people do quit. But then a lot of other ones start. It seems kind of inevitable, a natural flux and flow.
The number of OD deaths has gone way down, though. And so have heroin-related ER visits, and heroin-associated crimes and health problems of all kinds. I saw an interesting article in The New Yorker about how much public money has been saved since the program began. They analysed several academic and government researchers’ reports and then using that as an outline, filled in the probable areas of savings that aren’t so easy to attribute directly to the legalisation of heroin and the AVP program. When you think about it, it makes a lot of sense.
If people who use, get affordable heroin whenever they want it, they don’t have to spend a ton of time scrounging around to find the stuff, buy the stuff, or scrape up the money to buy it. They’re probably doing something a lot more constructive with all the time they save. Working. Working better. Missing work less. Getting fired less. Making art. Making music. Writing iOS apps. Going to class on campus instead of flunking out. Taking care of their kids. Making friends. Having a shower. Maybe even going to the gym or a yoga class or a museum or something.
The streets that used to be chronically infected with junk dealers, their heavies, and all the trash and dangers that go with that, aren’t the same anymore, either. I guess some of those streets have become safe, stable, and gentrified (whether the gentrification is a good thing or not is a moot point). And what about all those dealers and their hangers-on? The ones that were dealing to use, don’t have to anymore. In the Darwinian jungle of junk dealing, believe me, the guys that could run their drug business, while staying in business and staying alive and out of jail, were smart people. They had to be. They had sharp minds, good instincts, people-skills, diligence and stamina. Maybe they’re doing something else and doing a damn good job of it now. Maybe it’s something that’s not criminal and destructive and violent. Maybe.
A big chunk of government leaders, agency personnel, detectives, beat cops, street narcs, and other law enforcement people were pretty busy with heroin-related work before this program started. I’m sure it was expensive to fund all of that. Big public savings right there. Also, the public hospital methadone programs cost something. They were phased out completely early this year.
Looking further afield, let’s think about the opium poppy farming industry. It’s been huge in Afghanistan and other places that have a lot of problems. These are the places that used to supply the raw material for heroin. Now they’re not anymore. Those high-profit poppy crops were not providing food for anyone anyway, they were just adding poker chips to a global commodity card game. And those fields were not cultivated spontaneously by peasant farming families either. There was too much money involved. And politics. It was organised. Sometimes more, sometimes less, but always organised. And the profits, which were enormous, bought a lot of guns and bombs and hearts and minds, and tons of other stuff that didn’t benefit the villagers in those farming areas. Quite the opposite. Since most of the creepy sleazoids disappeared from those highland valleys, the people there have been better off. It seems they’re doing quite well, thank you very much, growing barley and apricots and wheat and nuts and stuff, for local consumption.
It’s still early days, but there are a number of seasoned experts who are postulating, and observing early signs that indicate a reduction in terrorism and other kinds of nastiness and unwanted ugly incidents in and around the networks fanning out across the globe from those former opium-growing zones.
Moving the opium gunk and processing it, and moving the resulting heroin around the world, as we know, was a vast and sophisticated industry, and a dark one. Regulated by no one, understood by no one. With so much money to be made, so much money was available to corrupt so many people in so many positions along the route from poppy field to pop musicians’ veins; people in airports, in embassies, in armies, in police forces, in government agencies, and in brothels and bars and nightclubs and so many other places all over the world. I can’t help but think that the total aggregate global irritation level caused by sleaze and abuse and malfeasance has chilled by several degrees since heroin became legal.
Coming back down to the individual human level, consider how dirty and dangerous heroin use was before the change. Nobody ever knew what was in the stuff they were introducing to their bloodstreams. It wasn’t clean, sometimes it wasn’t heroin at all, or just an admixture of heroin and who-knows-what. And if it was heroin of any respectable purity, it might easily OD the unsuspecting “lucky” user who happened to acquire “good” junk. Meanwhile, the not-so-good junk could have any substance known to man in it; bacteria, floor-sweepings, sand, random chemicals, and of course, baby laxative. No need to discuss here the huge spectrum of unexpected, uncomfortable, cumulative and fatal effects these random substances could have. And it could happen anytime, to anyone. It was Russian roulette.
Some people are outraged that heroin is legal. Parents are freaking out that their 18-year-old college-enrolled kids are shooting up on campus. In fact, not so many of them are. It’s not an instantaneous process to get your ID card coded to buy heroin. As a result, there is, of course, a black market. But at least what’s sold on the black market is usually authentic dispensary stuff. Those capsules and syringes are very well designed, and there’s no way to adulterate them without it being obvious. And anything that’s sold in other packaging is generally avoided as garbage. There’s still some old-style street heroin around, but not much, it’s not cheap, and it’s not worth the trouble and risk to find it, either. Idiots and losers are the only people who ever get near that stuff. And there aren’t many of them, anywhere. I can only imagine what kind of effect this whole thing’s had on the various mafia with longstanding profitable heroin divisions in their corporate portfolios.
Now, before you ask the obvious question, I’ll just answer it. Yes, there are people (who knows who or how), that play the system, so there actually is real dispensary heroin sold by “second-handers” to people who don’t have purchase permits on their ID, or people who do, but want to kill themselves or something, by taking way more than they can get via legit AVP outlets. There are also people who don’t have real ID at all, because they’re criminals, illegal immigrants, or some other kind of grey-world characters. It seems this is a problem, but not a very big one. It guarantees a few cops a job, I guess, but not many.
I figure the key factor that keeps people from playing the system for profit is the AVP thing; the blood test, the accumulated biodata and use history. All that. It’s not like you can just walk in there and order five injectable 5’s every day, then use one over the course of the day and sell the rest. The AVP system has recorded how much you’re using. It knows your drug habit. And it’s hard to beat a blood test, although people do try, and there are a few tricks, of course, that have some success.
One of them is for low-level users to take largish doses of grey-market heroin (or saved-up legit doses of their own), right before they go in to buy at an AVP dispensary, hoping they will be regarded over time as heavy users when they actually aren’t, and thereby get a higher max-dose purchase ceiling than they need or want themselves. Then they get to buy more than they need or want from the dispensary, and continue to escalate this deceptive pattern, while selling their excess heroin to the black-market traders. Yes, some of this does go on. But not much. It’s hardly worth it. It’s no more profitable or interesting than hanging around outside mini-markets offering to buy beer for minors to earn a few dollars.
In America and Europe now, you can have a full biodata digital ID card (FBD ID), or a neutral one, like the old ones, with just your picture and basic info. But you can’t use the AVP dispensaries without a full-biodata digital ID. That also keeps the whole heroin thing more or less within its riverbanks, rather than overflowing all over the place. Related to this is the knowledge that everything that’s recorded via your FBD ID sticks with you. That makes heroin users think. Your heroin purchase history, and all the biodata accumulated via the AVP dispensaries is there with you, forever. I guess that keeps people honest, in a certain way. Which is probably more good than bad, considering that deceit, duplicity, secrets and lies, are the stuff that’s caused most misunderstandings, miseries, and conflicts in this world, since the beginning of time.
The thing is, people used to believe in God, and they believed that God was keeping track of everything and managing stuff accordingly, with infinite wisdom and unerring justice. Not many people believe in God anymore, so they think whatever they do, it’s their business. And they don’t give a shit about anyone else, unless there’s something in it for them, considering that there’s no God or anyone else keeping tabs on anything. So basically, anything goes, no matter how despicable it might be. I guess having FBD IDs and the whole Interglobal Transparency Network is like the equivalent of God for a godless world.
In the past, using the God-monitor and religion thing to try to manage people so they would work together, treat each other with a modicum of respect, and reap the resulting benefits, worked OK in a variety of places during the course of history. Sometimes. That was how this whole human society thing with the relative security and comfort it offers emerged from the cluster-fuck of random homo sapiens running around clobbering, robbing and raping each other for whatever reason, or for no reason at all, while living in total fear and misery.
But the God-monitor religion system tended to get hijacked by people with ambitions and their own crazy interests in mind. To the point that religions rapidly got distorted and derailed, and people who convincingly claimed they represented God’s Will generally got away with murder. And worse. For a very long time. Maybe the duty of being All-Knowing, which used to be on God’s job description, is better for everyone when it’s relegated to data-recording technology that works with facts and accumulated real-life information; information that people from any religious or non-religious persuasion basically have to acknowledge as valid. Maybe. Probably.
If we stand back and look at all the data gathering, recording, and analysing technologies that operate well now, we might see something we created in our own image that serves as a reinforcing buffer for the actual God (if there is one), who Himself supposedly created us in his own image. These monitoring and recording technologies of ours could even give Him a chance to take a break, get some R&R, or retire altogether. The whole “in one’s image” symmetry feels aesthetically and poetically nice somehow, and maybe it’s valid. If truth, transparency and facts are always there, always verifiable, and there’s nothing secret except our deepest silent thoughts and feelings, we might be in a better situation that we ever were before, with any religion, ever.
But of course, this all depends on the character and integrity of the people who are responsible for managing and deploying the data that’s on this hypothetical ultimate universal backup drive. The data may be real and of good quality, it may be an accurate record of accumulated moments of factual states and phenomena. But how it’s used, and by whom, could turn out to be as totally fucked up by assholes as the whole God thing turned out to be.
If that happens, we’ll have escalated the basic human dilemma to a new meta-level of mass malfeasance. Or maybe not. I guess it depends on how successful we can be at cultivating compassion and courage in the hearts and minds of the people running around on this earth in the meantime. We gotta do it faster than the speed at which the cunningness of ego moves. Otherwise, all of science, and information technology, and radio-telescope traces from dying stars, and every fact that has been recorded ever, could become nothing but a neutron bomb of self-importance, hatred and greed for some total idiot or a whole bunch of total idiots.
Let’s definitely get going on that compassion and courage thing.
This was written in one sitting on 3 February 2014, immediately after learning of the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman. I felt devastated as I read the news. I stared, stunned and silent at a blank wall. In my imagination I heard the voice of a man in his twenties, speaking during late 2018 about life in New York, in a Post-Philip Seymour Hoffman world. Then I began writing. Susi Johnston