Monday, July 30, 2012

Unwanted gifts

Today was a travelling day.  5 car trips and a plane ride later I am finally home and it feels great.  My bed!  My computer!  My fast internet connection! My solitude! ... It turns out that's pretty much all I care about.

On the way I had another incident where a random bystander leapt into action to save Elli from actually learning anything useful.  It has happened before that a random person decided that children must be saved from the hell that is budgeting and handed me money to pay for some random trinket that caught Elli's eye but the heinous cost of the trinket in this case made me shake my head.

The thing on Elli's head is a travel pillow for children.  Coloured bright pink it is a irresistible magnet for small feminine folk, especially with its ability to also function as a bizarre hat.  We were in the airport walking past a random store and Elli spotted the ridiculous thing and demanded ownership.  As usual I told her that she could have it if she had enough money but the pillow had no price on it.  This, you understand, was necessary because the bloody chintzy cheap ass pillow costs seventeen dollars.

Because there was no ticket on the pillow though (I hate marketing people who specialize in getting children to beg for things, just in case that wasn't obvious) we had to take it up to the counter to find out what the damage was going to be.  The lady ahead of us in line overheard me talking about Elli paying for it and immediately asked to buy it for us.  I choked when I saw the seventeen dollar price ring up on the till but she didn't hesitate a moment and swiped her card.

So now we have a silly pink travel pillow and Elli has learned once again that the best way to get things is not to save up but rather to be cute and get random women in stores to buy things for her.  I am TRYING to teach her about money management, I swear, but instead she is learning to fleece generous people.  For all my good intentions I have a con artist in the making.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Culture Shock

Today I got drafted to help put up trusses on a new building my uncle is putting up.  I slapped on a bunch of sunscreen and sat on a rickety scaffold hammering in nails and hauling heavy objects around for most of the day; it wasn't exactly stimulating work but I do enjoy doing manual labour now and again.  What really got me was the difference between the people I hang out with when I am at my parent's house like I am now vs. my usual crew in Toronto.

The people here think it is entirely normal to strip to the waist, grab their toolbelt and tools and spend a day slamming up buildings of some type or other.  That is just what you do!  My crew down south would largely speaking be completely hopeless at this sort of work and would wonder why you wouldn't just hire a professional.  On the other hand if I were to start a sentence with "Okay, so I was thinking about the properties of infinite subsets of the natural numbers..." the folks up here would scratch their heads and the southern folks would wonder when I was going to get to the point.  Not to say that there is a difference in raw talent either way necessarily but there is definitely a difference in practice and experience!

I bridge the gap between the two in ways that feel a little bit strange.  After all, I know what a truss *is*, but I tear apart my soft city-boy hands nailing one into place.  I have this baseline of knowledge about construction and nature that is good enough to fool geeks but I am outed as quite clueless around people who really do spend their time in the great outdoors.  My family worked hard to teach me all kinds of valuable skills like how to shingle a roof, how to gut a fish, and how to pour cement but they never really sunk in; you need more practice than I will likely ever get to become really proficient.

The other thing that has been blowing my mind is television.  There are reality shows about picking a wedding dress!  People seriously watch this stuff?!?  Because I have no TV myself I don't ever see ads and I find them fascinating; I try to figure out exactly what marketers were trying to do by what they put in the ad.  The Olympics have enough bad commentary like

"Oh, he has been working so hard and he really wants a medal."
"I asked him if he is going for a world record."
"She is definitely going to need to work hard to win this."

that I have actually taken to watching the commercials and going to pee during the competitions.  That doesn't say much for the entertainment value of the Olympics when I would rather watch the ads than the content.

Soon I will be back in the big city and the lure of the infinite content of the internet will drag me in.  TV will once again be relegated to a thing that other people do until I come back to the great white north.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Scouting for bigotry

The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) recently spent two years reviewing its policy of excluding from its ranks anyone who is homosexual or not of an approved religion.  They spoke to great numbers of people and concluded that there was substantial disagreement and debate amongst their members over their longstanding policy of bigotry and discrimination and decided that the policy should stay.  They remain certain that the best thing for Scouts is to moralize on sexual orientation and keep the status quo because that way children can be educated about these things in their own homes with their own spiritual leaders.

Fr some reason they think that a Scout should be the epitome of honour, lawfulness and goodness... except when confronted with a person that is different.  Then they should uphold the virtues of hatred, exclusion, and bigotry.  Their desire to keep atheists out of their ranks isn't surprising because those atheists would probably complain about the mandatory religious services and fail to believe that the Scouts are directed by God in their activities.  I wouldn't want to join and they wouldn't want me to join - a match made in heaven, if you will.  I remember when I was in Scouts early in my life my father was a leader and refused to perform the prayer portions of the meetings - that must have led to some very tense conversations indeed.

There is a campaign going that is gathering steam to get Eagle Scouts (or any Scout, really) to return their Scouting medals and awards and cease any association with BSA.  I heartily approve of conscientious people breaking ties with BSA as a way to send a message; becoming an Eagle Scout is such a serious and time consuming process that abandoning it entirely cannot be easily ignored.  I doubt it will work right away but over time the BSA is going to have to either change or die because the steady increase of improvement in the rights given to LGBT people is impossible to ignore.

What is disturbing, though not entirely surprising, is that the Scouts have encountered many of the same difficulties Christian churches have over the last decades.  It turns out that people who are presented as being the representatives of an infallible Lord find it easy to abuse their power to do terrible things to young children.  That is really the crux of the issue right there:  Infallibility.  When you cannot admit to ever making a mistake a culture of protecting the institution regardless of its failings and crimes inevitably arises and terrible abuses occur.

Much like Christian churches the Scouts are on the way out.  They are shedding members and their once shining reputations are decidedly tarnished.  They could remedy this to some extent by trying to act like good people but apparently when given a choice between doing the right thing and keeping the bigots on board they chose the bigots.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Talking about death

Last year when I came up to Thunder Bay to visit my parents their dog died.  It was a tough time for Elli and we had a lot of difficult conversations about death, what happens afterwards, and how people deal with their grief.  We are up in Thunder Bay again this summer for my grandfather's memorial service so almost exactly a year to the day I am having difficult discussions with Elli about what dying means.  I hope I can avoid this becoming a trend, though I think it is a good thing to have lots of family about when these difficult sorts of topics must be dealt with.

The thing that struck me was how curious Elli was about all the proceedings.  She wanted to watch the urn go into the ground and carefully observe the rituals and actions that were part of the memorial.  The basic mechanics of death are something she struggles with, hoping to find meaning and reason in it all.  She doesn't yet understand things like cremation nor being sick and old enough for dying to be natural and okay.  I was upset and crying myself on a regular basis and that really shook her up; I know intellectually that everyone must die and that we should celebrate a long life well lived but emotions take charge nonetheless.

I gave a speech at the memorial service about the thing I will most remember about my grandfather.  I talked about the fact that although he had little education the breadth of his knowledge always stunned me.  Not only did he know a million things I will never know, he knew a million things I didn't even know a person *could* know.  Could anybody wander onto a random hill and be able to predict by the date and geography just how deep down the frost is?  The answer is yes, though the number of people who can is few indeed.  I broke down crying during my speech and barely managed to get the last bits out; I certainly messed it up though I have trouble remembering exactly how.

Elli found this all very confusing and hard because she could see how upset I was but couldn't really sort out how she should be acting.  She knew my grandfather but only a little; it is hard with so little experience to know how to deal with difficult emotions, particularly when the people you rely on are so overwrought themselves.  My hope is that by witnessing people dealing with death and watching them experience grief and get past it that she will develop a healthy attitude towards grief and recovery.  I make a conscious effort to let my emotions free and allow myself to publicly express them because I want her to have that example and not feel like she has to bottle things up.

The toughest part about parenting through these challenging times is that I know what I want to teach her and how I should act but it is hard to do it when I am so invested; trying to be comforting when I am crying and all twisted up inside is immensely difficult.  Parenting from a distance is easy... it is doing the correct thing when you are already sad, angry, exhausted, or hungry is that part that I find it very hard to get right.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Awesome things

A week ago or so a brightly coloured piano arrived on the street near my home.  It sat there, a small enigma, as I wondered who exactly would pay to put a piano on a busy street.  As I walked past it there would regularly be somebody pounding away at the keys, somebody who was clearly not a professional performer but rather just a person who wandered by and felt the desire to crack out a tune.

These folks arrived just before I took the picture and sat down to play "Mary had a little lamb" for a minute before wandering away again.  Despite the fact that many people have keyboards and pianos in their homes that site mute, unused, there seems to be a deep seated need in the populace to use some of those long forgotten piano lessons on the street corner on a public piano.

I love it.  I took piano lessons but I can't produce anything from memory anymore; I am afraid that to make pleasing sounds I would need at least some sheet music and some time to shake off the rust.  Nonetheless I very much approve of such strange little gestures as it helps generate feelings of community and spontaneous artistic expression.  Brightly coloured pianos scattered about a city are a great way to make that city a better place to live.

I find it heartening that people create such wonderful little surprises now and then.  I spend a lot of time reading forums and news sites and I think those leave me with a negative outlook on things; finding things like this helps remind me that there are rays of sunshine no matter how cloudy the day appears.

You can read a little more about the source of these pianos at

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Crime? and Punishment

I get myself in trouble now and again for refusing to wear shoes.  I am less hardcore about it these days then I was back in my first summer doing my barefoot project but I still love the feeling of being barefoot and I think it is an important statement to make.  That is, our laws and rules should enforce safety, not cultural norms and modesty.  In the UK there is a well known man who believes much more strongly in this philosophy than I do.  He is known as the naked rambler and has served many years in jail for his 'crime' of wandering about nude.  Even being in jail wasn't enough to pay for his transgressions so the naked rambler spent much of his time there in solitary confinement.

How can this be seen as appropriate?  When we count up the number of people hurt by his actions we arrive at zero.  When we count up the economic cost of his actions we arrive at zero.  However, when we count up the cost to society to try, convict, and incarcerate him we are looking at half a million dollars or more.  Add to that the cost of misery and suffering this man has had to endure and the necessity of this action becomes indefensible at best.  He has paid a greater cost than someone who violently assaulted another person and left them crippled!

The state needs to step in and keep people from stealing from each other, attacking each other, and taking extremely reckless actions that might put other people in danger.  It has no business trying to protect people from being offended and that is *all* that being naked will do.  I am offended by an endless variety of things, which the frequent reader here will no doubt be familiar, but the government has no obligation to step in and incarcerate people who utter racist or homophobic slurs, say grace before public dinners, or vote for Stephen Harper.

Legalizing nudity in the UK and here would have no noticeable effect.  In Toronto some years back there was a great furor over changing the laws to allow women to go topless - it was argued by some that there would be a wave of topless women running around everywhere corrupting the youth.  Unfortunately for me women ignored the change in the law and I have yet to see a single woman taking advantage of it.  Getting rid of laws that regulate nudity would do exactly the same thing:  A few people would run around naked, a few people would see a naked person and be deeply offended, and the police would never be involved.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Injustice at any cost

It turns out that killing people is expensive.  I just found an article on the bbc website talking about how expensive it is to go through with capital punishment; strangely the article focused on the $1,000 price tag just for the drugs themselves but the real cost is drastically higher.  Apparently companies continually try to avoid selling drugs that are used in executions to US prisons and so the cost to acquire the drugs is becoming somewhat prohibitive.  None of that matters much in the long run of course because the real cost of killing murderers is in the courts rather than the injections.

Justice is expensive.  Bailiffs, lawyers, judges, courthouses, prisons, and everything else associated with criminal prosecution and incarceration has a monstrous cost to society.  We should of course strive to only spend the money associated with arresting people when there is a real, demonstrable benefit to society; even if you don't buy into the justice argument for not locking all kinds of people up it is hard to deny the economic argument.  It all gets much worse when capital punishment gets brought into the mix because everything takes much longer and the arrangements for going through with the execution are elaborate.

I knew that execution was more expensive than indefinite incarceration but the numbers just blew my mind:  California has paid out more than 4 billion dollars in the last 34 years for capital punishment and has killed just 13 people.  Admittedly it is a bit crazy to count the dollars per death and hope to kill people as efficiently as possible but I think it is a number worth considering - 300 million dollars invested per person killed seems like a strange priority for state funding.  If California wants to kill people and is willing to invest big time to do it they could probably just hire hit men for a lot less than that!  Hell, I might be tempted to go knock off a few Californians for just 3 million bucks a head... a 10,000% increase in efficiency.  In this economy, who could say no to that offer?

That is the thing that truly boggles me.  Not that people want to execute criminals if it is cheap to do so; that is a mistake but isn't surprising.  What is surprising is that they are happy to pay enormous sums of money to execute criminals instead of simply putting them in jail forever.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Solving problems the stupid way

Teenage pregnancy is generally a pretty bad thing.  It is correlated with all kinds of unfortunate situations like poverty and incarceration and reducing it seems like a good strategy for a politician.  I watched a speech by Mitt Romney to the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) where he talked about the importance of getting people to complete high school and wait until at least age 21 to get married and have children.  Sounds good right?  We are to believe that Romney is really working for coloured people mired in poverty it would seem.

Until you look at what he actually wants to do.

In the same speech he expounded on his support for traditional marriage (homosexuality isn't going to produce a lot of teenage pregnancies last I checked), and his stance against abortion (which is a pretty damn important way to prevent children actually being born to teenage parents).  He also pounded his religious fundamentalism pretty hard so his overall stance becomes:

Men and women should only be in relationships with each other.
They should not be given information about sex or pregnancy.
They should not have access to medicine that can prevent pregnancy.
Tell teenagers to simply not have sex.

Result:  Teenage pregnancies won't happen!

That 'just don't have sex' talk had better be seriously magical!  Putting a bunch of uneducated teenagers with no contraception together and hoping no babies result is a lot like banking on the lottery as a retirement plan. Perhaps I should give Romney some credit.  Maybe he has some kind of wild, crazy strategy to curb teenage pregnancy that doesn't involve doing any of the things that we know reduce teenage pregnancy.  Maybe he will wave his magic Presidential wand or perhaps invoke the power of "GOD SAYS DON'T HAVE SEX".  These new and innovative strategies might work, or perhaps we could try doing things more like:

Allowing homosexuals the same rights as heterosexuals.
Teach children about sex and contraception.
Make contraception available.
Stop incarcerating huge swaths of people for victimless crimes so that children actually have fathers around and communities can break the cycle of poverty.

If only the Republicans would apply their 'less government regulation' schtick to education and birth control they would be both more consistent and less evil.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Wanting you

When we are attracted to another person there is usually an element of fetishism there.  I am attracted to women, therefore any woman I get romantically involved with can assume that I am fetishizing her to some degree.  Whether it be breast size, skin colour, hairstyle, weight or some other thing it is nearly certain that some part of her is getting me riled up.  Most of them wouldn't be offended by the idea that I wouldn't be attracted to them if they weren't women; that is by far the norm.  Sometimes though fetishes for particular things drive people away and we as a society seem to differentiate strongly between the two types.  I was reading a bit about this on a Dan Savage column in the comments and there were two really strong camps there:  One camp was convinced that there are fetishes that are a problem like having a fetish for someone in a wheelchair, say, and some that are fine like having a fetish for breasts.  The other camp felt like everyone is attracted to random things and that there was no fundamental difference.

I think the difference between an attraction that is fine like (me being attracted to women) and one that is not fine (dating a person only because they are disabled) is the basis of the relationship, not the attraction in particular.  If I am dating a woman only on the basis that she has large breasts then our relationship is probably going to be crap but if I only consider that a bonus on top of an otherwise good relationship then everything is just fine.  There are some really thorny problems though for those who are attracted to somebody who has a very rare trait.  In the article I linked the person writing in was a lesbian who was only able to get about in a wheelchair - if that is who you are looking for you are going to have a very limited set of options for dating and the person in question would be right to wonder whether you are with them only because you can't find anybody else.  It doesn't seem especially fair though to suggest that anyone who has a fetish for a rare trait is automatically suspect - there is no reason to give the stamp of approval to my desires just because they are statistically normal.

I also wonder if I am maybe looking at my own relationship incorrectly.  Someone only interested in lesbians in wheelchairs would be viewed with some suspicion on the basis that if their partner were to be cured (of the disability, not the orientation!) they would lose interest.  On the other hand I think people generally believe that if their partner were to declare that they were transgender that ending the relationship is reasonable.  I am torn on that topic... I love Wendy in a multitude of ways that are gender irrelevant but would I still be attracted to her if she identified or physically transitioned to male?  I feel like ending a relationship is acceptable in cases where your partner changes drastically who they are and gender is a pivotal part of our identities.  I would certainly give the relationship a chance but I can't guarantee it would work; a relationship where I have no sexual desire for my partner seems untenable to me.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Nathan Fillion and my man crush

Nathan Fillion gets me excited.  First off he is the big draw for the show Firefly (cancelled despite its enduring wonderfulness) due to his character being stone cold awesome.  Thinking about Firefly makes me happy, so Fillion makes me happy.  Unfortunately thinking about Firefly makes me angry because it was so cruelly cut down before it ever really had a chance to live so Fillion makes me angry.

Recently Wendy and I have started watching the show Castle where Fillion again plays a rogue with a heart of gold.  It turns out that it wasn't just a show smashing space opera and western together than won my heart but rather it was just Fillion and me loving the characters he plays.  Hell, maybe it isn't about him at all but rather just the parts he gets; either way I have a massive man crush on his character in Castle.  Wendy's feelings towards Fillion's character are similar but her crush on him has some .. slightly different overtones, shall we say.  That man has really been working out; have you *seen* those shoulders?

We have a strange sort of relationship with television since we don't actually own one; we ignore TV completely and movies almost completely but every year or so we find some episodes and become utterly, hopelessly addicted to some series or other.  We get all the shows and watch multiple seasons in the course of a few days or weeks and then suddenly the brief love affair ends and the shows rot on our hard drives or in the CD closet forever.

I don't have any way to know whether or not Fillion just got lucky and played characters we both happen to fall in love with or if there is something about the man himself that speaks to us.  At the moment we have just two data points and that simply isn't enough; perhaps if a new series pops up with him in it we will be able to tell from whence our collective lust comes.  Until then I am going to make short posts so I can fit as much Castle watching in every evening as possible.  Much as the show is hilariously unrealistic and silly it is also entirely wonderful and right now I just can't make myself stop.

Picture from:

Friday, July 13, 2012

The right to mutilate

Germany is having an interesting debate at the moment surrounding religious freedom.  One of its courts ruled that circumcision was 'bodily harm' and as such would not be legal.  Of course an adult could have the procedure if they wanted to but if this ruling holds up doctors will no longer be permitted to perform the operation on children.  I hope it sticks but politicians will be wary of supporting a law that will get religious groups up in arms and they will worry about being accused of religious persecution.  This is particularly tricky in Germany since the Jewish community mostly wants the right to circumcise their male children and Germany doesn't exactly have the best history with Jews.

I wonder how far this should go.  I certainly have no patience for people wailing about religious persecution when they intend to take a knife to their boys but there are other practices that are similar.  Should we prevent people from getting children's ears pierced until the children are a particular age?  How about female circumcision?  Personally I think that female circumcision is devastating and barbaric and that ear piercings are no big deal since they can grow back but we need to draw a legal line somewhere on the subject of surgical alterations to minors.  That line needs to take into account a wide variety of cultural norms and practices and seems like it is bound to anger a lot of people no matter where you draw it.

If I were making the law I would probably err on the side of caution and ban any elective / cosmetic surgery on children.  18 year olds aren't the best judges of things but they are old enough to be given a gun and told to kill people and old enough to vote lunatics into office so I guess they are old enough to decide who gets to use a knife on their bodies.  I think you would find a distinct lack of enthusiasm from the 18 year old male crowd when it comes to getting part of their penis lopped off but it should be their choice and not one made for them.

I don't have any tolerance for the idea of a 'Christian child' or 'Muslim child' or even an 'Atheist child'.  Placing children into religions without their consent isn't okay any more than it would be for an adult to be forced by the state to obey a particular religion.  When children grow up they can choose their religion and whether or not they want to opt in to that religion's rules on genital mutilation.  Until then they should be just straight up children and let alone to figure it out for themselves.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Believe it

Imagine this as a bad movie plot:  A group of fanatical animals rights activists find out that a Canadian porn actor named Luka Magnotta (currently accused of murder, among other things) is murdering animals and posting videos on the internet of himself doing so.  They contact Ron Jeremy, the most famous male porn star in the world, and try to convince him to participate in a sting operation against the Magnotta.  Ron Jeremy agrees to help and the group hatches a plan to have Ron Jeremy recruit Magnotta by promising him a role in an upcoming porn film, convincing him to come to California for the production, and then having the animal rights activists jump Magnotta once he arrives.  Can you believe how ridiculous and unrealistic that is?  Who would buy it?

Of course, it is true.  It never ended up happening because Ron Jeremy decided the plan was too outlandish (like a TV show...) and he backed out before the ridiculous scheme got to the execution phase.  No matter how crazy the plot and how ludicrous the people in a movie act it is pretty much impossible to place it as unrealistic unless it actually violates the laws of physics.  It turns out that the laws of psychology are mutable enough and flagrantly violated enough that in a large society pretty much any crazy damn thing you can imagine has already come true.

It is a little bit like reading Dan Savage's sex advice column.  Nearly every time I read it I end up finding out about some other completely wild thing people want to do during sex and there is always a big internet community out there talking about it and trying to help people experience it.  Try it yourself:  Think of some crazy thing that obviously nobody could want to do during sex and then google it to try to find information from others who are turned on by it.  Finding anything that doesn't produce a few hits is nearly impossible.

The world is a bigger and weirder place than we can ever imagine.  7 billion people can get up to pretty much anything and people are pretty much incapable of imagining the extent of the things they get up to.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

'Educational' advertising

Recently I was reading a magazine and saw an ad that really got me ticked off:  Domtar, a pulp and paper company, was advertising paper as a more educational alternative to computers.  You see, the children can't learn properly if they are using computers and will spend all their time searching for pornography and celebrity news.  The only way to save them from themselves is to encourage them to use paper ... lots of paper!  We guarantee big educational returns, guaranteed. (Not a guarantee.)

It isn't like there aren't bazillions of other ads out there which are much worse.  The most common ads I see on the internet are for muscle pills that don't work, slimming pills that don't work, and being a fall guy for credit card thieves.  Hell, even ads for things where you actually get what you expect like Coke or McDonalds are awful - it isn't like ads pushing garbage are hard to find.  After all, if you are selling garbage you really *need* those ads!

The thing that gets me is when companies make ads that read sort of like an independent magazine article written by a scientician and try to act like they are giving a public service announcement instead of an ad.  Maybe it isn't really any different than implicitly suggesting that scantily scad curvaceous eighteen year old women will mob you if you drink this cola / use this body spray / whatever but the corruption of objective reporting and the hijacking of real science with 'sciency' talk is infuriating to me.

The moral of the story is that if ads are going to lie to me I want them to really outright lie.  None of that squirrelly sneaking lying by pretending to be impartial; just promise me the babes, the cash, and the body of a Greek god and I promise to keep my irritation down to a rolling boil.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Idyllic child rearing

I never really got the cottage mentality before.  I understood that it was a house beside a body of water, which is nice and all, but the inconvenience of getting there, maintaining a second residence, and coming up with the enormous cost of purchasing it seemed unwarranted.  I think I get it now.  This past week I was at the cottage with Wendy and Elli and for the great majority of the week Elli was running around with other children playing, swimming, and having a grand ole time.  Sometimes the kids were in our cottage playing with toy trains, sometimes down the road at the neighbour's picnic table, sometimes playing in the sand, sometimes swimming.  The adults from all the cottages involved fed whichever kids were around and kept an eye on them while they were nearby; it felt like the perfect way to raise children.

My difficulty with child rearing is not the mechanical aspects of it.  Dirty diapers weren't fun and cooking for more people isn't my idea of a great time but it didn't bother me.  All those small chores that appear when you have a child around weren't an issue.  The hard part for me is the alien face hugger section of child rearing:  When your child is grabbing at your leg saying 'daddy daddy daddy play with me' and all you want to do is be *alone* it is hard; especially so for me.  I don't mind at all having children about and needing to take care of them but I struggle with the constant demands for attention.  The cottage this time was fantastic because I got to have exactly the parenting I enjoy - involved but peripheral.  It feels a bit like the iconic 1950s dad role... be there for the fun but not have to get especially invested.  (Have fun doing that junior, I am going to go smoke a cigar!)

I figure that an awful lot of people want the 1950s dad role, and clearly plenty of those are women.  There are people of both genders (moreso women) who really enjoy being in there fully invested with the kids all the time but I suspect they are a minority and that most people are most comfortable at a greater distance.  The community life of the cottage gives us a chance to punt the kids out the door with a 'be home for supper' and then get on with all the things we want to do.  It would be wonderful to have communities where this was possible but so many of us live in apartments over busy streets that it is challenging to recreate the cottage lifestyle in the rest of our lives and we are forced to be the one, the everything, the source of all entertainment for our children and that is a hard role to play all of the time.

The trouble is that by the time the games our children want to play are really interesting for most of us the children lose their interest in doing things with their parents.  When Elli is 17 I would love to teach her to not chase inside straights, to document her code properly and use good variable names, and to use more garlic than the recipe suggests but by then she won't want me to pay attention to her:  I will be the alien face hugger and she will be out the door with somebody more interesting.  Whoever designed humans didn't do a good enough job; I want a word with the manager.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


I will be away at the cottage for this week.  No posts again until Sunday at least.  In the meantime I suggest you all amuse yourselves with Jesus and Mo, a delightfully caustic web comic that warms my cold, atheist heart.  Nothing better than a little bit of well deserved mockery.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Too many photos

Digital cameras are a marvel.  These days anyone can take constant streams of photographs with no danger of running out of space and do so on a tiny budget.  While we now have more power to take photos than ever before I think we actually have much less incentive to take those photos than ever before.

You have a choice:  Spend your time taking pictures of natural wonders, fiddling with camera settings and trying to frame it just so OR you could simply experience the natural wonder, live in the moment, and go home and find a better picture on the internet.  That photo won't be one *you* have taken but it will probably be better and doing so will let you have deeper experiences to boot.  Instead of travelling to the Louvre and spending your time getting pictures of it you should just look at the damn Louvre and use one of the many excellent pictures found by googling "Pictures of the Louvre in Paris".

One of the best examples of this is the tradition of taking a complex set of family photographs at each gathering.  Rather than spending time talking to each other and getting the most of the time we have we often spend our time in contrived poses with pasted on smiles and carefully arranged furniture.  If we want to record our gatherings would it not be best to actually record what the gatherings were like instead of recording what a photo session is like?

I don't think all photography is wasted of course; somebody has to take that excellent shot of Niagara Falls so that the rest of us have no need to!  What is wasteful though is interrupting and shortening enjoyable experiences to get a picture that nobody will ever look at.  The pictures that are most special and treasured are pictures that cannot be beaten by ones on a tourist brochure and which record life as it is rather than life as we want it to be portrayed.  Take shots of snowball fights, flooded basements, children covered in paint, and people being tossed into swimming pools.  These shots can never be trumped by pictures on the internet and actually give us a insight into the real lives that have gone into the past.

What parts of life do you want to remember?  Do you want to remember the times where you were standing in a row with fake grins in a contrived setting or do you want to remember the times when you were smiling for real at something wonderful that just happened?  Take pictures that will create wonder in your descendants, not boredom!  You can leave two kinds of memories for those who will view your pictures in later years...

"Oh, there is another picture of gramps sitting in a chair in the living room."

"Wow, why is gramps all covered in paint climbing a flagpole while wearing an orange cape?  He must have been *awesome*."

I know how *I* want to be remembered.