Tuesday, 9 April 2013

This is not funny.

You know you live in an "upper-middle-class" white neighborhood when you are considered a suspect in a daylight robbery case for walking around wearing a hoodie and sunglasses.

It's almost like the Trayvon case, only instead of the neighborhood watch, it was [township name] police and instead of gun, it was a savage German Shephard police dog (K9 unit), a police cruiser, a patrol car, and a whole lot of intimidation techniques, including targeting exhibited weaknesses such as a) fear of dogs, b) panic disorder, and c) years of institutionalized oppression.

And instead of being black, the suspect is guilty of being slightly less WASP-y looking than the rest of the residents, and he was talking on an expensive smartphone, which indicates that he is either planning a robbery or selling drugs, because people who wear black and have long hair and piercings and facial hair are criminals, especially if they look masculine.


I am SO glad I get a full tax refund.

Our schools suck, our roads may as well be made of cobblestones and bits of broken glass, and our police department has nothing better to do on a bright Sunday afternoon than bring three on-duty patrol vehicles (including the K9 unit) to confront a twenty-year-old going for a walk...because he was going for a walk..and utilize every intimidation technique in the book to make sure he is beaten down and knows his place, and scared enough that he wouldn't dare lodge a complaint, because he looks like an easy target and with all those pockets on his pants it would be simple to plant an ounce of weed on him. Maybe more!

Isn't it sad that we are FORCED to support "law enforcement" like this?


I'm terrified right now, because if you couldn't guess, the "suspect" named above was/is me.

I already have a terrible fear of law enforcement, which is exactly what they want. They intimidate people into keeping quiet, just like a good servant of a nanny state ought to.

I'm sick of it, though. I am targeted, and I even made the mistake of telling them I have panic attacks and I'm afraid of dogs.

I had a complete panic attack and nervous breakdown, in broad daylight, on the road in front of my house, and the police officer asked if I needed an ambulance, and I guess I said no, so he drove away, leaving me there on the ground hyperventilating and unable to see, hear, or speak clearly.

The worst part is that I don't remember his name. Joe, I think. Last name was Italian. Bald. Or balding? Big guy. Instantly scary. I wish I could have run away, but he probably would have shot me. I was at the bottom of my driveway. My house. Where I live. I wish I could have run away. I should have. I should have run as soon as I saw police anything. But they would shoot me. There is absolutely nothing to say they wouldn't, and here's why:

I said I was having a panic attack. I managed to choke those words out. If a panic attack is not interrupted (and there are many ways so to do), it can cause a myriad problems relating to oxygen deprivation and extreme hormonal/neurotransmitter influx. A serious panic attack can turn into cardiac arrest if not treated. It is a medical issue. It is a health concern. It is clear and present danger with regards to the individual. 

And the police drove away. 

They left me there, on the ground, gasping for breath, sweating bullets on a 35-degree day in wintertime.

They are liable for so many things. They can lose their jobs, their careers, their pensions, their badges, their firearms licenses, their benefits, their tax breaks, and their diplomatic immunity (let's get real here, connections get you places). 

They can be liable for lots of money in damages. 

If only I knew how to complain, and to whom, and about what.

I am too scared, though. I am too scared that they will laugh at me, or arrest me for badmouthing the police, or for thought crimes, or plant weed on me (don't deny that it happens, again, let's get real). I'm also scared that the more likely situation would come true - that they'd simply deny it.

And since it's the word of a police officer against the word of a mentally disabled, unemployed 20-year-old college dropout, well...you can probably guess how that would go.


On 5 April 2013, between 1300h and 1830h, a home in [my neighborhood] was burglarized. The suspect(s) stole jewellery from the master bedroom as well as "items" from the rest of the house after forcing the door in.

The police seriously suggested "don't keep your jewellery in the master bedroom."

What the actual fuck? That sounds an awful lot like "she was dressed like she was asking for it." Like, seriously, how reactionary can you get?! Holy shit. It's 2013.

The suspect(s) remain at large.


I'm going to hide out places and try and catch the actual burglar(s).

In the unlikely scenario they target our house (it might look like an easy target, but it also doesn't look like there's anything valuable inside, because there's not, and the other houses look empty and richer in general because they are both) I crave the opportunity to jump them and viciously attack them for their crimes against me. It's because of people like them that I am being intimidated into not going for walks around my own damn neighborhood in broad daylight. I can instantly think of several weapons in my room alone and a multitude downstairs (we have three knife blocks in the kitchen...three...really?)

After all, it's probably just some kid in a hoodie.

Monday, 8 April 2013

A History of...What You Make of It! (pt. I)

I was reading a discussion - yes, a discussion, not a comment war, for once - on the state of black Americans. Not "people of color," just the black ones.

It's actually a great discussion. Ordinarily if a white person (or, really, anybody) was to say something like "it's not the buildings, the school lunches, white people, or poverty that's the problem - it's the parents not instilling the correct values in their kids," they would be instantly deemed a hateful racist bigot.

But...they'd be correct. And also not a hateful racist bigot, but that goes without saying.
The miserable state of public education in the United States, especially parts of the South and Southwest, has been well-known and well-documented for decades. Decades. I mean, it's not like it magically got better as soon as the Civil Rights Movement finally saw success, but then inexplicably became shitty again in the recent past.

I live in Newtown Township, Pennsylvania, which is comprised entirely of the town of Newtown Square. Newtown Square has grown considerably, and in fact is continuing to grow, but our population is still roughly 12,300. Newtown Square itself is, according to the 2000 census, 96% white. It's logical to assume that this hasn't changed very much. Well, perhaps not logical, but availability heuristics usually make sense around here.

All the new constructions are aimed at rich families, mostly because Episcopal Academy moved to Newtown Square several years ago and, I'll admit, it's a good school. The campus is kinda ugly and industrial-looking, but that's probably just because it lacks the character of a place that wasn't built, you know, within the last five years. At least all their students with cars/licenses can park on campus!*

In any case, Newtown Square and its immediately surrounding areas, except for places like Chester, Marcus Hook, and parts of Upper Providence and Marple Townships, unmistakably exhibit obvious reminders of this area's history as a country (and later, "suburban") retreat for rich Philadelphians, all of whom were white, and a fair amount of whom were actually European. By that, I mean that they are inhabited by rich, or at least "upper-middle-class" white people.

So, in the end, it makes sense that rich black people wouldn't necessarily want to live in a development full of rich white people. Who would?** They're uppity and rude and generally very conservative and, more often than not, religious. In a bad way.*** I'm glad I live in a neighborhood that is mostly retirees and young families. In my neighborhood, at least, people are more down-to-earth, especially the older people.

I mean come on, who can live to 60+ and still think it's sensible to have their heads in the clouds? Some of my neighbors definitely remember the Civil Rights Movement itself, and lots of them were affected in some way or another by the Vietnam War. And there was other stuff that happened. Lots of stuff. Is it in all of our history textbooks? I doubt it.

I remember one time, when I was much younger, talking to a woman who lived a few houses down. I don't recall her name, for whatever reason - assuming I even knew it at the time - but I do remember she just looked like the kind of "little old lady" you'd see at church, or the grocery store, or post office...you know. She wasn't "frail", but definitely old. And she was white. And she told me about how she got kicked out of her home once for marching with black people demanding civil rights - apparently her father was not fond of the idea of her attending college with black people!

Think about it - somebody alive in the 2000s who remembers this. Crazy how far we have come. Crazy, too, how far we have yet to go.


I live with my family in Newtown Square. We are not rich white people. We aren't WASPs. In fact, there's more evidence asserting my father's grandparents were Jews, not Russian Orthodox (what kind of people were trying to get out of Russia in the early 20th century, remember?) like I've been told. And I'm not a Protestant. And there's much more "Saxon" in us than "Anglo." And that also doesn't matter a fucking bit, because we're American, and that's so much simpler and easier to say.

My parents are not old. When I was born, my mother was 28 and my father was 33. That's the age when most couples have children, assuming one or both went to some institute of higher education and then either worked or went to graduate school and then got married, and didn't have kids right away until they knew they could support a family. You know, how responsible (or, admittedly, sometimes overly-cautious) people approach the idea of having kids.

So now, both of my parents are still well under 60. My mother isn't even 50. Oh, and her mother is still alive, as is her mother...my great-grandmother...it was a different time, I suppose!

My father is not old enough to remember the Civil Rights Movement actually happening. He was five when the Act was passed in 1964. My mother was an infant! Oh, but their parents...their parents knew. Their parents had been brought up in a naturally racist culture, even my paternal grandmother (who was born in what is now the Czech Republic). My mother can speak at length about her late father's extensive vocabulary****, including a vast arsenal of racial slurs. Go figure.

Contrast with my father's family - namely his mother and older sister. His mother was a social worker with an impressive resumé. She attended Smith College (you know, the highly-selective and very highly-regarded all-women's college? one of the only such schools in the country? that one) and was apparently so good at what she did that her dissertation was published in 1945.

1945. Woman. Immigrant woman. At a very good college. Hell, at a college! Published author. Highly regarded social worker. My late grandmother.

How many women do you think went to college in 1945? Your guess is as good as mine. But I'll bet a fair amount of my non-existent money that there were not nearly enough to say with any degree of sincerity that women were held to standards as high as men were.

She went to college, graduated, and then got married and raised three children. And worked. She touched the lives of hundreds of people, if not more. She lived to help others. She quietly set an example that is still evident today.

My paternal grandmother died of natural causes in October 2006, in a way a relief to her children and grandchildren. She had been in declining health for years, since I was quite young, and had suffered from a form of dementia for the year or so leading up to her death. I can understand why my father has changed so much since his mother died, especially after losing his father (whose story would occupy another five pages at least) in 1984.

It's all very complicated, isn't it? I shall have to continue this story another day...


Friday, 22 March 2013

Confessions, pt. I

I'm not going to put this on the Dickinson "confession" page, since I don't need to be anonymous because I'm not scared.

I dislike it when people assume that I am a white, heterosexual, cis-gendered male, and really dislike when they assume I have what is commonly referred to as "white privilege."

I don't care to go into much detail on this point, so I'll just say it now - I am a feminist. Got it? Good. :)

I'm white, that's obvious. I'm Saxon, though, not Caucasian. In terms of recent heritage, calling all white people "Caucasian" is like calling all black people "African."* My ancestors didn't come from the Caucasus region. They came from Saxony. A really long time ago, if you want to go way back, I suppose they were likely some kind of Goth culture, and probably mingled and/or fought with the Celts, who also make up a small part of my ancestry. I don't really know. I am fascinated with genealogy and the like, but haven't researched my own history prior to roughly 1702. But I'm not Caucasian.

I'm queer. I'm in a relationship with a female, but I am not heterosexual! Being queer unfortunately still serves to effectively eliminate much of what people believe are afforded the "typical" American white male. I can marry my current partner**, sure, but I am equally likely to be attracted to someone of the same biological sex, and wish to marry them*** - which presently would be denied outright in the vast majority of the United States, including my home state, which once again is planning to put forth a bill defining marriage, which is completely unconstitutional!

I don't check the box for "M" when asked my "gender" and given only two choices, because I refuse to have anybody tell ME how to identify. If they ask for my sex, then yes, it is "M," as there are only two biological sexes. Nature would not work otherwise. A person is either biologically male or biologically female.**** Fun fact: in utero, we all start out female. That's why men have nipples, you know. "Gender" is a social construct. It is useful, but it's entirely artificial all the same. I happen to identify as androgynous or gender-queer. This doesn't have anything to do with my physical appearance, which happens to be rather masculine (though not overtly so, thankfully). It's how I feel about myself. I do not want to be a masculine man! It feels wrong to me. Additionally, I don't want to be a female. I sometimes act more feminine and display feminine traits, but I do not believe I am trapped in the wrong body.

Fun fact (again): Some people are annoyed or confused by it, but I really like seeing people whose gender identity and/or biological sex is indeterminate! I love the mystery and the immense self-confidence it takes to express it in public (see: any Pride festival). My girlfriend happens to look very feminine and act like a girl and dress like a girl. Luckily she's not a super-girly-girl. She's very low-key. She's obviously female and I find her extremely attractive. There's plenty mysterious about her anyway. XD

And my goodness, people, I'm not upper class. I act it because I went to a prep school with primarily upper-class people. I shouldn't act like it anymore, because let's be honest, I live in cow country and drive a (used) 2008 TrailBlazer that needs a lot of work because I can't afford a car of my own.

I'm not "rich." If I had gone to public school and subsequently attended a public university or community college, I still wouldn't be "rich." This is, of course, presuming you mean "rich" in terms of PPP, or "purchasing power parity," which is for our intents and purposes synonymous with "cash on hand." I have three siblings. We happen to have all attended private schools our whole lives. Why? Well, lots of reasons. For one, it is my parents' choice. Two, my father attended the school that my brothers and I attended, so he knew it would be a high-quality education.

Three, we were thoroughly unimpressed with our local school district when we moved here fifteen years ago and, to be honest, we still don't much fancy it. If anything, it's gotten worse. I happen to know the district high school is rife with drugs, both use and sale thereof, and I'm not just talking soft stuff like marijuana and benzodiazepines. For two, there's a shit ton of bullying, and we are all atypical and therefore targets. My brother is now an athlete, but he used to be an overweight butterball. He would have been fucking tortured. My other brother has ADD and plays the cello and guitar and is involved with the VEX robotics team. Besides the fact he wouldn't have those opportunities at a public school, he would have been bullied incessantly for not being athletic. None of us would have gotten any kind of special accommodations for our various learning disabilities. We would have been forgotten and blended in to the crowd and done very poorly academically as a result.

Then there's me. I have Asperger's Syndrome, or AS, a form of high-functioning autism that would essentially put the finishing touches on the bullseye drawn on me by everything else about me that is different. I could never have come out at a public school. I would fear for my life. It was bad enough coming out at The Haverford School. It wasn't much easier being out at Dickinson, but for different reasons.


I was miserable at Dickinson College. I was worse off there than I was at The Haverford School, and that's the truth. The people at Dickinson treated me terribly - professors and students alike, though mostly the latter - and I ended up retreating into a shell and simply not going to classes because I mentally could not stomach it. I also couldn't sleep or wake up like a normal person, and that still hasn't been fixed.

Let me go on record now as saying the following:
  • I have had nothing but positive interactions with the administrative staff of Dickinson College. Stop making people like Dan Confer and Tim Poirier the butt of jokes and target of criticism. Let's see you do their jobs better!
  • The Disability Services department is outstanding and whatever you are paying people like Marni Jones, it isn't enough.
  • Accepting a bid from and subsequently pledging and becoming a brother of the Delta Sigma Phi fraternity (Theta Lambda chapter) together constitute what I truly believe to be among the best life choices I have ever made.
  • There is a lot of potential for Spectrum and the Feminist Collective to be major forces for good and positive change on campus and even in the broader Carlisle community, but they are being held back by an unfortunately large amount of members who simply must get off their high horses and regain an appreciation for logic and reason as well as rational debate. If I don't entirely agree with you, that doesn't mean I am against you. Grow up. Someday you will realize that it's people like you who actually harm the queer rights and feminist movements, respectively, because no one will take seriously somebody who is entirely convinced of their own inherent superiority.
  • If you complain about the food in the cafeteria, you better have your own personal chef and butler back home, or else you are (not sound like, are) a whiny, spoiled, sheltered little kid. It's one thing to say mom's cooking is better. I'd hope so, since mom doesn't have to prepare institutional-sized meals three times a fucking day. It's another to say "I pay $56K a year and this is what they feed me?" If you can afford the meal plan, you can definitely afford to simply buy and prepare (that means cook) your own food. Protip: I'm pretty sure that will actually be cheaper than a meal plan.
  • Girls, please stop assuming that men are all rapists. Just please, for your own sanity and our dignity, just stop. Wear whatever clothing you want. Just know that all people will judge by appearances regardless. Sorry, that's life. Wearing a super-short skirt doesn't mean you're "asking for it," obviously, but it does mean that you are comfortable with your body and want to show it off. Now, answer me this: are you trying to make other girls jealous, or do you want guys to notice you? Be honest. You can't dress like a "slut" (read: deliberately showing off your body, which is not bad, really, trust me, it's great) and then complain about men/people just wanting you for your body. In a loud, crowded room, I'm not going to notice your personality, and I probably won't even hear you if you're talking. I'm just gonna see DAT ASS and DEM TITTIES and suchlike. That doesn't mean I instantly want to fuck you. It doesn't mean that to any man unless he is what we call "immoral," meaning he believes women are inferior and can simply be "taken" and "used" for one's pleasure. Those people are called "rapists" and they are felons. The one kind of inmate the other inmates hate...yep, you guessed it. 
  • On that note, most rapes aren't reported. That is sad. Stand up for yourselves. There are so many resources available to help you. You are not alone and you do not deserve to be a victim. Nobody does. But only you can take the first step towards ceasing to be a victim and becoming a survivor.
  • Guys, people wouldn't think we're all rapists if we toned it down a bit. Seriously, stop acting like a deprived animal. Have some self-respect. While you're at it, have some respect for women! As I literally just said, they aren't dressing sexily to give you the green light. And if that is their purpose, trust me, they will let you know one way or another. 
  • Please stop buying kegs of Natural Light. It is ridiculously fucking stupid for people to stand around at a party and talk almost exclusively about how bad it tastes. A keg of Yuengling is literally $20 to $40 dollars more expensive at the most. Plus, if you are known as "the people who have good beer," well, you know...
  • Putting Vladimir brand vodka through a Brita filter several times doesn't work, sorry people. 
  • I wish I had stayed at Dickinson, I truly do.


* Lots of Caribbean people are black. Some of them are darker-skinned than many "black people" in the United States. Some Hispanic people look "black" but you wouldn't call them "African-Americans," you'd call them "Dominican" or "Honduran" or "Haitian" and so on and so forth as the case may be.

** Legally, I can't, yet, without parental consent. We'll both be 21 come July, at which point it is legal to obtain a marriage license and legal civil union independently of parents/guardians.

*** I am pansexual, meaning I can find anybody attractive sexually and emotionally and everything in between. But that doesn't mean I want to fuck every person I see (in fact I find most people decidedly unattractive) - and it certainly doesn't mean I could leave my girlfriend at any time for somebody else! I wouldn't let go of her for the world. 

**** People are very rarely born with ambiguous genitalia. It's a very exceedingly rare genetic malfunction. They are no less healthy than anybody else, but determining their sex is entirely up to them and is often a very sensitive subject.

Monday, 18 February 2013

The Desparate Delusion, pt. I

I recently found myself reading the blog of a very serious and heavily indoctrinated Christian man no more than 25 years old.

I felt so sorry for him for having reached practically the point of no return in his absolute delusion, living in a fantasy world, entirely of his own construction, where his god and the Christian Bible - which he takes literally, although he does not say which version - are all that matters.

It pains me knowing there are still (and always will be) people so weak of spirit and mind, people whose lives are so meaningless and whose existence is so frail that they invest all their energy in what they call "having faith."

Reason, logic, and critical thinking, however - a potent triad often confusedly absent in "people of faith," especially when their "faith" is challenged -  would sooner refer to this devotion to faith as, essentially, a dissociative defense mechanism. The problem is that the activation of this defense is a gross over-reaction to what is often nothing more than the observation or knowledge of some thought or action that is so different from the person's own that it is shocking and therefore must be "bad."

A perfect example would be trans* individuals and their acceptance in modern culture. In the officially secular USA, discrimination and outright (usually church-sanctioned) hatred abounds. In India, also officially secular, the majority religion is Hinduism (80% or more of the population,) and because Hinduism has deities of ambiguous gender or sex (or species!), trans* individuals don't innately go against Hindu beliefs by simply existing!

Interestingly, the Christian Bible says nothing about sex-changes or transgender individuals at all, although at some point I believe it does prohibit male genital mutilation.

Pretty sure Islam encourages devout practitioners to cut out the clitorides of their wife/wives.

In any case, I've grappled my whole life with trying to understand why people give themselves over to ANY doctrine or philosophy. I was always terrified of it. Terrified of not being in control of my life, of letting some invisible being manipulate me and the world around me according to some ancient texts...

People turn to religion when their lives are so shitty that they have given up trying to regain control.

Thus, religion is effectively a means of dealing with depression in varying degrees of severity for people without the resources, education, or mere willpower to find another way of facing their problems and dealing with their life.

Religion is for cowards. Religious devotion, literal interpretation of texts, "having faith" - they are all simply a means of escape from the problems of the real world, a means of escaping what HUMANS do in the HUMAN world, of which the person in question is undoubtedly a part.

Religion, therefore, when taken to such extremes, is practically indistinguishable from a serious mental illness.

Think about it.

Think about all the things religion asks of you, and think of all the extremes to which people will interpret those requests. Then, think of all the instances in which people DO reach those extremes. Realize it happens every single day.

The Middle East is the way it is now for two reasons: The British Empire and Islam. It's mostly because of Islam (and subsequently Judaism,) but also because the Brits took a map of the Ottoman Empire after World War I and divided it with a ruler and pencil and pissed off the already angry Arabs in the area, since they were forced to be in the proximity of people with a different interpretation of their scriptures.

Oh no, these people think differently...better kill them for the next hundred years!

Religion is a mental illness.

Religion drives people to murder. To murder many at once. To commit genocide.

In America, we've seen some pretty awful shit lately. The mass shootings the media loves to pin on anything from "lax" gun control laws to violent video games and death metal are in fact committed by people with one thing in common: they are mentally disturbed or ill.

Religion is indistinguishable from mental illness.

Religion is a disease.

It is the most potent and deadly in world history.

Unless we as a race wake up very soon, religion will continue to destroy the world using as a weapon the very beings who created it - humans.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Thoughts for a Friend

I do not ordinarily mix business and personal, nor do I often stray from my tendency to maintain consistent subject matter on each of my blogs or my many internet profiles. However, as this particular blog long ago wandered from the realm of photography and art, it is just as well suited for the occasional philosophical rambling or socially-conscious rant as it is for personal reflections. 

This is the latter.


"Belief in fate is only failure to realize all our actions have a purpose."

Though this message may seem positive, remember that some purposes are ill-intended, and some actions will not lead to the desired results.

This particular quote is actually one of mine, pulled from a rather lengthy post of mine in a discussion thread on the old VenomScape Forums (now styled "NullCoding's 'venomscape'" and existing in a mothballed state) regarding religion. I do not recall exactly what aspect of religion was being discussed - perhaps it was as simple as "are you religious?" or a more complicated question of a distinctly philosophical nature, as the members of the forum and I were often prone to asking and subsequently discussing at great length.

While I cannot currently locate the original thread, I definitely recall one of the major contributors to that particular (and, indeed, every) religious and/or philosophical discussion being one Nikolaas Kardinn. At the time, Nik (as he prefers to be addressed) was no more than fourteen years old, provided I am correct in placing the date of this discussion between fall of 2009 and winter of 2010.

Nik was born on 4 May 1995 in Anderlecht, Brussels, Belgium, to a Flemish father and Franco-British mother. His mother was technically only a citizen of France at the time of Nik's birth, but due to EU law that has since been enacted, she (like all other native-born citizens of EU nations) is technically afforded rights of citizenship in both the UK and France (as well as Belgium). Because of his cultural and ethnic heritage, mostly on his mother's side, Nik was given two full names at birth - Nikolaas Matthijs Kardinn and Nicolas Matthieu-duBois Camerier. Only the former (Dutch) name is officially recorded, and thus is by default his legal name.

Nik was affectionately called "Nico" in his childhood, but was taunted occasionally because that sounded like "neko," the Japanese word for "cat" Though the two words should ordinarily be pronounced differently, they sound about the same in a typical Dutch accent. Nico became Nik.

Despite growing up in the idyllic and peaceful-looking Moortebeek village just outside the Brussels City Center, Nik's early life was not easy. His father left his job at a major urban construction company after the negligence of several relatively inexperienced workers resulted in an accident that hospitalized him for nearly four months; despite making a full recovery, he opted to seek employment in a different environment. This was not initially successful, and Nik's father remained unemployed for two years. His mother worked two jobs, but was actively seeking to move out of Belgium.

In 2003, Nik's family moved to Birmingham, England after Chris Kröger, a distant German cousin, suggested that Nik could work in his music store and that his parents would likely find employment as well. This proved correct, despite his parents' initial reluctance to leave their home country. After searching for a place to live, they settled in Northfield.

Nik began working for Chris' music store when he was only ten years old, supplementing his parents' income but also keeping much of his earnings for himself. His mother found work as an administrative assistant, and his father as a salesman of primarily Jaguar and Land Rover cars. This is the way things were for several years, up to and including (and a bit beyond) the time I first met Nik online in late 2006.

However, recall that Nik's life was not without problems. Though it did not crop up in our first few conversations (why should it have?), I soon found out that Nik has a rare and apparently untreatable Circadian Rhythm Disorder, or CRD, which, as he put it, "made life bloody hard." CRDs are disruptions in the "biological clock," and can be naturally-occurring or else brought on by poor sleeping patterns or habits over time. Little is known about them overall, even with modern science where it is, and though I do recall one instance on VenomScape of Nik briefly describing his condition (including a name that at present escapes me), his particular case remains almost entirely a mystery.

Nik had trouble sleeping as a baby, which is not at all uncommon. He also didn't sleep very much as a toddler, and indeed did not sleep much as a young boy either. However, it was not until his later primary-school years that his condition began to manifest itself as it does today. Nik would sleep for at most six hours, never much longer, after which he would be awake and active for roughly thirty-six hours before sleeping another six hours or so.

This causes him to observe what is effectively a completely different calendar; his "days" are generally forty-two hours in length, which makes it impossible for him to attend a normal school or hold a steady, daily job.

Despite his bizarre sleep-wake cycle, doctors consistently gave him a clean bill of health well into his teens. Initially, there were concerns that his neurological and/or physical development could be impeded by his lack of sleep, but several polysomnograms concluded that his brain activity was normal during sleep and in fact he attained a very high quality of sleep, with natural REM cycles, among other things.

Nik grew to embrace his condition, once saying "I can't really change it, now can I?" He even considered touting himself as a "medical mystery," intentionally providing challenges to renowned doctors and neurologists the world over. In reality, Nik became more and more withdrawn. He did not often leave his room or his house unless he was working at Chris' music store. His eating habits were not very good; since he was awake for on average just under three times as long as the average person, he ate seven to nine meals a "day" depending on his appetite.

Nik also has a very fast metabolism, though medically speaking it is nothing abnormal. As such, he maintained low weight and a very low BMI, and continues to do so. He was briefly a vegetarian, though the lack of protein in his diet (he strongly dislikes tofu) caused him to become very weak and low iron intake made him anemic. Physically, doctors can find no signs of adverse effects on his health resulting from his CRD in any way. Presently, at the age of 17, he stands 5 feet 9 inches tall (175 cm) and weighs about 145 pounds (66 kg).

However, Nik's health could definitely be a great deal better. He was and is very open about his lifestyle and habits, despite being a generally private person, so I know a great deal more about how he lives than how he thinks. Nik started smoking at age twelve, stealing cigarettes from his mother, who had taken up the habit when Nik was two years old. Though also a smoker himself, Nik's father had cut down a great deal, citing rising tobacco prices and restrictive laws being enacted in the UK.

Chris Kröger caught fourteen-year-old Nik smoking a Davidoff cigarette in an alley near his store one day. Rather than exhibiting the expected signs of surprise and disappointment, Chris exclaimed "where, er, how'd you get those? They're bloody expensive!" to which Nik replied, "At the store, and sure they are - but you pay me well enough." Chris (who was also a smoker at that time) agreed not to tell Nik's parents, but warned him that if they did find out, he would sooner back them up. Chris kicked the habit in 2011 after developing bronchitis made worse by the long-term effects of a fifteen-year smoking habit. He was in hospital for two weeks, where smoking was obviously prohibited, and upon being released decided that withdrawal symptoms would fade soon enough and he was better off without cigarettes anyway.

Nik's parents separated in early 2008, though they have not (as yet) formally filed for divorce. He lives with his mother in their Northfield home; his father lives elsewhere in the West Midlands, though I do not personally know where.

Nik's mother discovered his smoking habit, and though not pleased, admitted she had no right to make him quit, as she had no plans to do so herself. This was the first of several admittedly poor parenting decisions on her part.

Nik picked up another bad habit from his mother - drinking. Heavily. It started innocently enough - at 16, he was legally able to purchase and consume beer provided he also ordered food. Chris happily bought him beer and liquor as well, and they frequently drank after or even during working hours (the store was rarely, if ever, busy). His mother also supplied him with alcohol through her own stash.

Nik's mother was always a heavy drinker, but he was not conscious of the full extent of her alcoholism until his early teens. Despite swearing he would never drink, Nik eventually found he quite enjoyed alcohol, as it did not affect him at all the same way as it did his mother and others whom he knew. In fact, alcohol seemed to be about half as potent to Nik as an ordinary person. But because he enjoyed the sensation of "being at least mildly tipsy," Nik would usually drink practically twice as much as a "normal" person would to achieve the desired results.

On 13 January 2013, while Nik's mother was spending time with family in Wales, he invited a friend over after hearing that he was in the area. Sean Evans, who had known Nik since he first moved to Northfield, said he would definitely drop by between 7 and 8 PM.

At roughly 1930 GMT, Sean arrived at Nik's house. He had called Nik's mobile several times, but gone to voicemail, and had also sent several texts, which were marked "received" though he never got a reply. Confused (more than worried) at this point, Sean knocked at the door. He waited a minute and knocked again. He began to worry at this point. Knowing Nik hated the sound of doorbells, he rang it anyway, but still no answer.

At 1947 GMT, Sean called Nik's girlfriend of nearly five years, who wishes to remain anonymous at this time. He asked where Nik was, to which she replied "at home," clearly confused as to why Nik's friend was calling her at work. When Sean informed her that he was unable to reach Nik in any way, she became very concerned and briefly explained the situation to her boss, who allowed her to leave immediately. She arrived at Nik's house at 2003 GMT; her 2002 Peugeot was caught on two different red-light cameras in the process.

Using her spare key, she opened Nik's house and found it dark inside, though the outside light was on (in that area, commonly considered to mean somebody is home). She and Sean went upstairs, where they found Nik face-down on the floor of his room.

There was nothing to immediately indicate any reason for this. Nik had never used hard drugs and indeed never even smoked marijuana. There were several empty liquor bottles, but they were dry and Nik's girlfriend recalled them being in that exact position the day before. He had no noticeable bruising and was not bleeding, indicating that he hadn't fallen very hard or was already sitting or lying down when he lost consciousness.

Sean immediately phoned emergency responders, who arrived within ten minutes and rushed Nik to Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Upon arrival, he was declared unresponsive and unconscious pending further examination. Nik was breathing on his own, albeit shallowly and irregularly. He was hooked up to life support.

Nearly three full days later, doctors stated that Nik was no longer unresponsive, as he was exhibiting normal responses to sensory stimulation, but that brain damage was still a possibility as it was rather difficult to determine how long he had been unconscious.

Nik regained consciousness briefly on 19 January 2013 for almost an hour. Though he appeared unable to move or speak, he was clearly looking around the room and aware of his surroundings. A nurse asked him to blink twice if he could hear and understand her, and he did. He attempted to lift his head, but couldn't. He sighed in apparent frustration and fell asleep soon after.

When doctors tried to wake him later that evening, he was unconscious again; this time, however, attempts to revive him were successful given the results of tests and diagnostics performed on him during his time in hospital.

He was initially very confused and disoriented, though he is speaking coherently with doctors and hospital staff and has been fighting to remember exactly what happened leading up to his eventual collapse (of which he says he is unaware).

"Actually, I had not had a drink that day, I don't think. I don't really remember what I did do that day, though. My last memory is feeling suddenly quite ill, with pain somewhere in my abdomen, I think...I tried to sit down, but the headache got worse, and I think I lay down to try and sleep at some point. I suppose that's not what my body had in mind."

The exact sequence of events is as yet not completely clear to me, unfortunately, but from what I understand, it goes something like this:
  1. Nik begins to feel quite ill and his vision suddenly blurs sometime in mid-afternoon
  2. He loses strength to stand or talk (or use his mobile phone) soon after, and sits down on the floor
  3. Feeling worse, he lies down hoping whatever is happening would pass
  4. Sometime after that, he loses consciousness
  5. His body begins to go into insulin shock, causing a blood sugar spike (down)
  6. Nik's organs begin to operate at much lower efficiency, with limited supply of energy (had this been sustained, he would have suffered multiple organ failure in a matter of hours, from which recovery would be next to impossible)
  7. Nik is found and rushed to the hospital
  8. He is treated for over a week, after which point he is conscious and responsive with no apparent brain damage whatsoever, indicating that he was not deprived of oxygen for long (or at all)
But somewhere in that hospital stay, Nik underwent surgery to remove nearly twenty percent of his liver. It had failed. His much-larger-than-recommended intake of alcohol, coupled with his weakened immune system and already low blood pressure, had put far too much strain on his liver in too short a time. Additionally, because he is awake so much more than he sleeps, doctors postulate that the "real age" of his internal organs may actually be much older than seventeen, meaning they were operating at normal "awake" capacity for twice to three times longer than the average seventeen-year-old male.

Assuming this theory holds water, that would mean Nik's liver was acting like it was anywhere between about 34 and 51 years old - definitely old enough to fail, especially considering his massive alcohol consumption. Doctors were shocked to hear of how much he drank on a daily basis; one said it would likely be enough to cause complete and likely fatal liver failure in an ordinary adult within a matter of months. Indeed, Nik was consuming between 100 and 150 euros worth of hard liquor a week (about $200).

Needless to say, his whole life will change now, as will mine. If I do ever visit England, specifically Birmingham, I will likely not drink with Nik at some pub. Hopefully, I won't drink with him at all!

At this point, I am exhausted from writing what is essentially Nik's life story. He has always wanted me to write his biography, often praising my skills as a writer and speaker as well as a lyricist. We have collaborated on songs in the past, and will do so again; he has helped with vocals on my songs "Pied Piper" and "Inventive," the latter of which was based on his own original lyrics. But he still joked often that I should chronicle his life's adventures, much like was done for Alexander the Great (the bard's name escapes me).

I still expect great things from Nik, that much is for sure. I initially panicked, as I have lost friends before and do not wish to lose any more - certainly not at this time in our lives! But thanks to advanced medical science, he is going to be alright.

I hope this reflection finds you all well. Remember that your choices will always affect you, whether you know it or not, sooner or later, for better or for worse. Remember that some purposes are ill-intended, and some actions will not lead to the desired results.

Finally, I do hope Nik enjoys reading this. For someone who claims to be self-conscious, you sure do love being talked about ;) (just one thing people - promise not to pay too much attention to him, or he'll get cocky!)

I will end with what I believe are fitting words from my song Rauha Aina Kanssanne, written in May of 2010 to show support for another friend going through hard times. Much of the song is written in Finnish, though I do suppose a translation to Dutch is not out of the question!


Peace be with you always,
Through the turmoil all around.
You're walking backwards down a road
Where the future's still unknown.

No one has to tell you not to
Live your life like a scrap on the cutting room floor.
So cleanse your mind,
And let it shine.

- Jaska B, 23 January 2013