Havana Travel Tips for Weirdos

Note: This was originally posted as a response to someone's mailing list post, so if it looks a little disjointed, it's definitely because of that and not because I'm a bad writer ;P

For those traveling from the Western Hemisphere, another common route is to fly to Tijuana or Mexico City and then take AeroMexico. Round trip from MEX>HAV is $350-$400 usd. When Americans arrive, border agents stamp a piece of paper and will refuse to stamp passports. When you leave the country, they will confiscate the piece of paper. The visa is easy to get, but visitors must have at least 3 days in a hotel (pre-paid and be prepared to present the receipt). Once let in, it's much cheaper to stay with locals. Also, US dollars will get you a lot farther than Cuban pesos. The poverty there is extreme, and various necessities are only usually obtainable with USD.

Many Cubans report paying their rent with US dollars, and sex workers will only accept US Dollars and sometimes Euros. It's certainly a strange detail, given that most American travelers do not have permission to go to Cuba.

In general, expect border agents to confiscate "excess" electronics. If you bring something that is out of the ordinary (for a sun-bathing tourist) it may be confiscated. The tradition is to bring extra and give to activists based locally (who have minimal access to hardware). Cuba is, of course, totally aware of this and will ask why you came with three phones and (if they let you in) why you're only leaving with one. If you're living the three laptop lifestyle, you might be better off leaving them at home and bringing a burner netbook that isn't encrypted. I'm not sure what the impact the conference will have, but I'm prepared to have things taken away on entry.

This likely doesn't apply to anyone on this list, but if you (or your traveling companions) expect to bring a lot of tech, look into arriving by boat rather than plane. The usual "tech class" travelers that most areas love to have, Cuba is more suspicious of.

When going anywhere that might be classed as "adventure travel" it's a good idea to have a second passport whenever possible. For US travelers, this is a very simple process -- write a letter supporting your need for two passports (traveling to A while waiting on visa for B is a common reason) and go to the Passport office or embassy. If approved, you'll be issued a second passport that is valid for two years, and can ask for a 'passport card' as well. The passport card is useful as ID but not really for border crossings. I'm going through this process now for travel to eastern Europe and central Asia. There's something very comforting about being able to leave one passport in Berlin with my work laptop & phone, and take only the bare essentials to wherever I'm going.

License to travel

You may be wondering whether you qualify to go to Cuba. If you're not American, this doesn't apply -- only Americans require a license to visit Cuba. If you're going to CubaConf in April, you likely qualify for a "general license" under one of the 12 broad categories recently put into place by the Treasury Department. With general licenses, you are not required to request a written determination before you leave. Whether your travel qualifies for a general license is an excellent question for your attorney. Treasury notes that your schedule while there must be "consistent with a full-time [working] schedule." This means you, guy who plans to Instagram every meal and daiquiri while there.

So sayeth the Treasury Department: Among other things, this general license authorizes, subject to conditions, attendance at professional meetings or conferences in Cuba relating to a traveler’s profession, professional background, or area of expertise...

Source: https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Documents/cubafaqsnew.pdf

Algebra II

This is some #showerthoughts shit, but today I was thinking about the time my high school math teacher confided (apropos of nothing? I think?) that he’d had a date with a pretty Swedish woman. They ultimately went on a second date, but decided not to pursue a relationship. The teacher was in his mid-twenties at the time, and I would have been around sixteen, so the age gap wasn’t that large.

It didn’t strike me as particularly weird or anything at the time, but today I wondered whether he told me because perhaps he didn’t have anyone else to tell. Then I felt kinda sad about that for a few. Then I realized that this would have been around fifteen years ago, and that the participants of those two dates had almost certainly forgotten about them by now. And yet this is what chooses to occupy one of the lesser-used memory vaults my brain.

I can’t remember PHP but I remember this. My brain does not have its priorities in order.

The Day Without Coffee

The first cup of coffee I made today got knocked over by a cat, who proceeded to throw up on my kitchen floor.

The second cup was inexplicably strong and terrible, and got tossed out.

I was pretty excited about the third cup, but when I poured half-and-half into it, all I got were chunks. I literally went out, bought coffee, and their milk was rotten. I mean, who the FUCK--

Anyway, I don’t think I was meant to have coffee today.

Bio-tinkering - tren edition

So last week I experimented with trenbolone, an anabolic steroid that is commonly thought to be the worst of the worst in terms of side effects. You know, for fun. Here’s what happened.

y tho?

Back in 2014, I had a nasty case of mononucleosis, which sapped me of my strength. As I joked on twitter, I used to be able to lift any Tor dev in an overhead press and now it would be very difficult (or impossible) to lift a dev weighing a hundred pounds. My punching bag weighs a hundred pounds, and I struggle to lift it off the ground using just my arms. That’s a pretty serious strength loss, and took me from “fat but strong” to possibly the worst shape of my life. Over the course of about a year, I put on 25-30 pounds of fat. Some of this was related to intense work stress, but muscle loss was a contributing factor. The key takeaway is that I became gloriously out of shape in that time.

After adjusting my diet and doing quite a lot of research, I decided to try trenbolone to see whether it would help increase strength. Coupled with exercise of course -- I feel like this is obvious here.

Warning: Nothing here is advice. Consider this a ‘trip report’ and nothing more. I’m not a doctor and I’m definitely not your doctor.

Effects

In terms of side effects, days 3 and 4 were the worst. I was extremely irritable and it was hard to keep from snapping at trivial provocations. There were also some fleeting moments of intense paranoia on day 3 or 4 -- definitely a new feeling for me. While logically, I knew in advance that it would likely happen, in the moment it was hard to remind myself it was a side effect.

From outside appearances, there were no side effects. While I had problems with feelings of aggression, those were internal and didn’t impact interpersonal interactions (aside from one mildly snippy email). However, having said that, I would likely not try trenbolone again at that dosage again. It’s too easy to be a prick.

About half an hour after injection, I had a lot of lower-back tension. This was expected but quite uncomfortable. At the gym, I was able to do twice as much cardio with more intensity than usual. I could have continued on, but wanted to stop ‘early’ to prevent over-working the muscle. Later in the day it became apparent that actually I’d injured myself during the workout. But at the time I felt like I could go forever.

That feels like the real ‘danger’ of the drug, if you can really call it that. Before trying trenbolone, I’d read a couple of one-off sentences mentioning that the increase in strength can paradoxically lead to injury due to not realizing one’s limits. So it’s not that I was caught completely unaware by this. This was on my mind while working out. I can see a situation where someone pulls a muscle from overworking it, then spends two to three days focusing on other areas, before working the muscle again. In my case, I decided to take the safer route of resting that muscle for at least a week before going back to the gym.

There was no injection site pain and no “tren cough.” I slept like a baby the entire week. Those are all pretty notorious side effects, but they weren't present during this experiment. I was, however, completely drenched in sweat while working out, and had some sweating the first few days. I typically don't sweat at all while just walking around, so this was definitely new.

Results?

That’s a question mark. While I lost 2.2lbs in six days and spent that time recovering from a pulled muscle (ie being lazy), it’s tricky to pin that loss to trenbolone. It is also hard to accurately measure muscle gain (if any) vs fat loss at my weight. Having said that, my recovery time from the pulled muscle was phenomenal. Seriously. I went from walking QWOP style and mostly staying seated to being totally fine in less than six days. Normal recovery time is two weeks for this kind of injury.

The muscles on the injured leg are clearly much denser than on the other leg. My traps feel denser as well.

My hunger level seemed to go up a bit, though in practice I actually ate less. Unexpectedly, my facial hair grew faster and thicker. Instead of having to shave every 3-4 days, I should shave every day. (I don't because lazy).

Timeline

Day 1 (Sunday): ~75mg trenbolone enanthate IM backed with my usual ~125mg testosterone enanthate. Lower back tension was relieved by working out. Felt very good overall and overworked a muscle.
Day 2: Out of commission due to pulled muscle. Sweating a lot.
Day 3: (internal) aggression, irritability, anger, and mild paranoia side effects. Still not in the gym because of pulled muscle.
Day 4: Zits. Fewer side effects that previous day.
Day 5: So. Many. Zits. All the temperament effects have gone. No more excess sweating.
Day 6: Skin slightly less oily than yesterday. Positive impact on left-side vastus lateralis (the pulled leg muscle) is evident. Muscle is much firmer than the same muscle on the right side.
Day 7 (tomorrow): Will be back at the gym.

Other thoughts

I’m curious what effect using the long ester had -- trenbolone enanthate has a half-life of around 6-10 days while trenbolone acetate has a half-life of 3. The acetate formulation might have more intense mood swings. My worst mood side effects were right when trenbolone absorption peaked. With acetate, that peak only lasts around a day (if that) but any benefit there is tempered by the fact that one would have to take more frequent doses.

Most male bodybuilders using trenbolone take 75mg-200mg every other day on a cycle of 8 weeks and report major side effects. Female bodybuilders using trenbolone take anywhere from 20mg-75mg a week with a long ester (enanthate), might not be on a cycle per se, and seem to mostly use trenbolone to reduce fat and harden muscles before competitions.

You might notice that the dosage differential is enormous between genders. This is because trenbolone is extremely androgenic -- it has more androgenic effects/side effects than testosterone, which is the androgen. This is why women who use it at higher doses or long-term look like they’ve been chiseled out of a block of marble by a Greek god. That’s the power and appeal of the drug. It’s a feature, not a bug. (See also Dawn Alison, who has an 8-pack). However, most women seek to minimize masculinizing effects, which leads to the lower dosing schedule. This also goes a long way to explaining why female bodybuilders report fewer emotional side effects.

Interestingly, trenbolone comes up in the trans community sometimes. The appeal for trans guys is easy to see. It’s five times as androgenic as testosterone, and five times as anabolic (muscle building). Over an eight-week cycle, the effects on the body are intense -- even if not coupled with weightlifting. At a normal bodyweight, the form gets leaner. The jawline becomes more defined. Facial hair grows faster. Muscle is easy to put on. All of these are effects of testosterone as well, but trenbolone is orders of magnitude stronger. And unlike testosterone, trenbolone doesn’t aromatize into estrogen at all. At higher doses especially, a portion of testosterone converts to estrogen automatically for both males and females. However, the last time I spoke with another trans guy IRL about trenbolone was 2004-2005. Since then it’s become a bit of apocrypha, a legend from an earlier and less understanding time where not passing fast enough (much less at all) meant unemployment or death.

The final word

So, would I try trenbolone again? I would probably run this experiment again, though at a much smaller dosage -- likely 20mg for one week, with day 3/4 being on a weekend when I can get tinyangry with video games if need be. Other than the Day 3 side effects, my experience was pretty neutral. And I would only try again once my strength gets high enough that injury is less likely.

An important consideration is that I can take a fairly low dose of most medicines and still get the positive effects. And similarly I can have intense side effects at a comparatively low dose. If I were taking trenbolone 75mg every other day -- a typical bodybuilding dose -- I’d claw my own face off from annoyance the first time a barista misspelled my name. This is also an excellent reason for bodybuilders to stick to natural non-steroid supplements that won’t cause major changes in temperament.

Boring Mysteries

I was going through some boxes (as I have infinite books). Someone sent this to me back in June. The printed return label said "compliments of Stratfor."

Still not sure:

  • Who sent it
  • How they got my sublet's address
  • What the point in sending it was
  • Why this specific book was sent
  • Or what it had to do with Stratfor (if anything)

Anyway, the book is really interesting, though I haven't read much of it yet.

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