Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Culinary Oppression

Yesterday I decided to make something new for supper.  Like most people I have a list of favourites that I make over and over and in my mind a switch flipped and I needed to surprise myself.  This is not usually greeted with open arms by my ladies because my adventures into the culinary arts usually involve me saying "Fuck it!" a lot and making really odd food.

What I settled on was baked potatoes and sweet and sour veggies.  I know that a mix of onions, mushrooms, pineapple, and red pepper in a sweet and sour sauce is *supposed* to be paired with rice, but I won't stand for being pushed around by the cooking police, I am going to go my own way!

After looking up a sweet and sour recipe on the internet I produced what I thought was a quite nice sweet and sour veggie dish.  Everyone agreed that it was a fine thing in and of itself.  The combination of it with baked potato was met with substantially more suspicion.  I was pleased with how potato with melted butter and sweet and sour sauce tasted and I enjoyed the meal greatly.  As is usual for me my enjoyment was ramped up because I had ignored the prevailing advice and just done whatever the hell I wanted.  Nothing makes victory sweeter than knowing that you ignored the establishment and did it your own way!

But it would have been even better on rice.  Dammit.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Seeing the other side

Parenting is "All Joy and No Fun."  Not strictly true, of course, but it gets across an important point.  There are lots of rewards from being a parent but the costs are big, and usually those costs involve taking the fun things and not doing them anymore.  Instead of concerts there are diapers, and instead of game nights there is collapsing into bed because you were up all last night with a vomiting kid.

Thing is, having kids brings perspective.  You get to learn a lot about how you relate to other people, how far you can be pushed before you break, and how you deal with all kinds of difficult situations.  While it isn't fun to figure out how sleep deprivation smashes your brain, it feels good to have come out the other side and sorted yourself out a bit better than before.

I want to say that we need to find a way for parents to walk the line between childless hedonism and raising small people.  Some technique that removes some of the challenge and drudgery, perhaps giving more people the ability to learn and grow from child rearing without having to invest quite so heavily in doing so.  The trick is that we have such a thing - it is called birth control.  People these days don't have to have six kids like in times gone past.  We can choose to have just one, and we can even have a lot of input into when we want that one to be.

But it isn't about parenting like people used to 100 years ago.  We compete with one another, and it seems that parents are more than happy to hurl more and more resources at each child in an attempt to outdo one another.  We *could* just let the kids do their own thing until they became old enough to be useful, but instead we dedicated hundreds of thousands of dollars and all of our energy to trying to shape the destiny of the few children we do produce.  We have the option to take it easier, to find that elusive spot between duty and frivolity, but instead we simply pour all of our resources into a smaller number of vessels.  You can't just opt out either, not without significant social consequences.  What would have been normal parenting a century ago is criminal neglect now, and that ignores the strictly social penalties that would be expected.

I remember reading a quote from a mother who had some enormous number of children, more than ten surely, and she said that when she had two children they took all of her energy, and when she had a dozen, they still took all of her energy.  I think that is very much true - our budgets for parenting in terms of money and time expand to fill any possible gap rather than being constructed based on what the children actually need.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015


I smashed my chair this weekend.  Not deliberately but rather just by adding that final straw.  I leaned back, felt a lurch, heard a splintering of wood, and the chair back fell away from me.  I managed to avoid pitching right over and looking the fool though, so at least I have that.  After extricating myself from my damaged vessel, I realized that the chair back had split into two pieces and fallen apart, having been beaten to death by fifteen years of stretching and lounging, leaning and spinning.

There is quite a powerful moment when you hear the unmistakable noise of destruction but don't know what is happening.  A split second of certainty that the world is about to be a worse place but you just don't know quite how yet occurs, then is gone.

So I took the back off, got out the tools to remove the giant iron spike that once supported it, and now I am left with just the remains.

I have a rolly stool.  (Rollie stool?  I can't decide.)  It turns out though that I like rolly stools.  The back of the chair always took up far too much space in the kitchen, both physical and visual, and now things are more open.  Also I think my posture is going to improve because instead of slouching back into my chair I am sitting up straight, supporting myself.  It looks really weird though because I have the higher part of the chair towards the front, which somehow seems very wrong visually though it feels right to sit on.  I suppose there are probably medical professionals with strong opinions on the usage of backs on chairs but I don't think I will bother consulting them.

Can't say whether or not I will stick with it.  I tried the standing desk and that didn't last long, but maybe this will go the distance.

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Impossible Dream

Conversations about my life with other people often get pretty weird.  In particular I find that straight guys react in a predictable way that I wish I could change but which clearly is going to be a thing for quite some time.  The two things about my life that cause this reaction are me being a homemaker and being polyamorous.

Finding out that I am a homemaker often starts off with people not being too impressed with me but once it becomes clear that I do this not because I want to scrub floors till they shine but because it gives me lots of time to play video games the reactions change right quick.  (It also gives Wendy lots of time to read books and play The Sims, keep in mind!)  Sometimes there is a bit of incredulity that my wife lets me get away with this but mostly people get that it is a choice with consequences - having less money, for one.

The thing that totally rocks their world though is finding out that I am polyamorous, particularly when I talk about going out on dates during the day while Elli is in school and Wendy is working.  The idea of me hanging around my place having romantic / fun / sexytimes with somebody while Wendy works makes their heads spin around and around and seems to make them question their life choices.

My response to this is to say "You know, you could do this too, right?"

That phrase never seems to be received in the way I want it to be.  That is, I am trying to say "You know, I eat breakfast.  If you want to eat breakfast, you can too!"  What they hear is "You know, I climb Mount Everest naked.  You could climb Everest naked too!"  They see my life as impossible, obviously achieved by magic.

The reality of the situation is that being a guy who is a polyamorous homemaker is neither as simple as breakfast nor as hard as climbing Everest while naked.  The world pushes back, seeing me as having no drive, no ambition.  People often think of my lifestyle as wrong, unstable, or dangerous.  There are real social costs to living as I do, though they are far lower than I had thought they might be and certainly are lower than most people anticipate.  Stepping outside the expected norms forces you to come up with your own rules and that can be a difficult process.  It is a process I cherish, but it does take time and effort.

One of the big reasons I talk about being poly is that I want the world to see how I live as just a thing people do.  I want poly to be like bowling.  Maybe you like bowling, maybe you don't, but you probably don't worry too much about somebody else who likes bowling and you are pretty sure if you felt like it you could go bowling too.  Bowling isn't quite as simple as breakfast, but it is sure a lot closer to breakfast in terms of difficulty than it is to climbing Everest while naked.

Living way outside the norm is possible.  There is a choice there, and to dismiss it as not a choice is to place unfortunate limits on your own happiness.  No matter whether your happy place is right in line with what other people expect or not it is a good thing to recognize that the choice exists.  It is not a question of what you must do, but what you choose to do.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The value of marks

I am struggling right now with finding the right amount of stress to place on the value of marks at school.  Innately I don't really care much at all about what marks Elli gets.  I care that she learns, but if she picks up all the concepts and is happy and developing and gets all Ds that just doesn't bother me.  If the reason she is getting Ds is a problem itself I would be concerned, but if it is just that the teacher decides to do that for no reason I wouldn't much care.  I care about Elli, not the letters someone attaches to her on a document.

But marks usually do reflect something.  They aren't so great at predicting anything but generally it is true that people with higher marks have greater understanding of the subject matter.  The trouble is that Elli is one of those kids that has a much greater grasp of what she is being taught than her marks reflect.  Her teacher recognizes this and is up front about it - she learns well, but doesn't produce work that he can give her credit for.  He knows she gets it, but if she hands in blank sheets he has to give her low marks.  If school report cards were divided into "Understanding" and "Does work" she would get a B and a D respectively and it is hard to resolve those when the categories are not organized like that.

I get it.  I had trouble in high school in particular with being able to easily grasp all the concepts and do all the work but I just didn't care to push hard.  I wasn't interested in getting 99s, though I could have if I had really wanted to.  I could have put in four hours a night on homework and studied like crazy but there was nothing in me that wanted to do that so I cruised through.  Elli's struggles are familiar to me, which makes me very aware that we can't just find some magical technique that will fix it.  My parents never figured out how to get me to work and I don't think there was anything they could possibly have done to achieve that.  I think my situation as a parent is very much the same.

I want Elli to have opportunities and many of those opportunities are gated by marks.  Learning to produce material even when you aren't interested is a good thing to do.  The world is full of work people hate but which has to get done.  For these reasons I want her to get good marks, to help her get used to doing things that aren't fun themselves, and so that she will have more choices later in life.

But it is tough to get myself worked up over those grades on the report card when I just don't care.  It is sort of like Wendy's PhD - I supported her through doing it but I just never came around to caring about it myself.  I care that both of them are happy, that they can pursue their goals, but whether or not they have letters after their name or a report card full of As, Bs, Cs, or Ds, just doesn't matter to me.

Monday, April 13, 2015

What a deal

Today I was buying iron pills at the drugstore.  These particular ones are behind the counter so I have to have a conversation with the pharmacist to get access to them.  They want to be sure that a doctor has actually recommended taking them and that it isn't just someone chomping down random pills on a lark.

I might suggest they do the same with the homeopathic pill section, but with the conversation being more along the lines of "You do realize these don't do anything, right?"

At any rate I got up to the checkout and the clerk scanned the pills and told me that they were on a two for one sale.  I can't say no to free stuff that I will definitely use so I went back to the pharmacist, got my second bottle, and walked out.

I didn't get out of the store without feeling a little bit disturbed though.  First off random two4one sales and medical treatments that require a conversation with a medical professional just don't seem right at all.  I left a job once at least in part over objections to this sort of thing - medicine and huckster tactics just don't mix.  It is irresponsible and exploitative at best, dangerous at worst.

But what really gets me is wondering why the company would do this.  There aren't any signs anywhere and nobody is just wandering by the pharmacist's desk to ask if the iron pills happen to be on sale today.  The only thing this accomplishes is when people like me walk in to buy the product they end up giving away a second one for nothing.  This isn't like two4one chocolate bars or magazines or whatever where you can bring people in with a big flashy display and move some product at low margins.  No, it is just straight up giving away stuff... which is great for me but it does seem like a poor choice for the corporation.  Someone really didn't think that through very well.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Being selfish

I have been struggling lately with being selfish.  That is, I haven't been selfish enough, and it has been a problem.  Wendy has been struggling with a fairly serious knee injury that just won't heal for about five months now and on the same timeline has been trying to adjust to being an employee instead of a student.  Paid work has its perks, but it is a big shift.  I have spent these months trying to be supportive of her but I ended up going too far.

I have been trying to provide quiet and calm so Wendy can get the extra recharging time she needs, and I have also been trying to be around all the time so I can assist her, especially when she is struggling with her injury.  The trouble is that this has lead to me sitting around my place all the time wishing I could go out and see people or have people over but doing neither of those things.

Trying to give a partner the extra help they need is good, but when the people in my life start wondering if something is really wrong with me or if I have decided I don't want to see them anymore it is clear that I have gone too far.  It is easy and natural for me to be the helper, to try to assist my partner when they ask for assistance.  Unfortunately I seem to have this tendency to bury myself in that far too deeply and not recognize when I simply have to come out to keep myself happy and functional.  I can't be any good as a partner if I am in martyr mode and if my other relationships deteriorate because I don't put the time in to keep them strong.

It is tricky because there aren't clear lines.  I like clear lines.  Yes / No, North / South, Right / Wrong.  When I need to provide just enough support while still having just enough of my own time to keep myself happy I often miss the mark because there aren't good guidelines.

The battle between those things is even more complex because it usually occurs between Passion and The Director.  Director always wants to sacrifice, to support, to do what other people need, and Passion wants to just run off and do something fun.  Both personalities are very aware that Passion must be let out to play or I will be unhappy, but exactly when he can be let off the leash is a difficult problem.  It is almost like parenting - figuring out what to do is easy when there isn't a screaming child grabbing at your leg begging for something or other.  Similarly Director is much better able to make decisions when Passion isn't howling at the gates, bored and grumpy.

Wendy and I have resolved that I should have more people over and do more things.  Not that I am going to suddenly go crazy, just that I will adjust the normal until it is a bit closer to the optimal point, that elusive spot where Passion is sated and Director is not wracked with guilt.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Teaching is fun

The thing that I get most pleasure from in parenting is teaching Elli about tricky things.  Rolling around on the floor playing games is fine and all but what I look forward to the most is discussions with her as a teenager where I will be able to push her thinking outward and upward.  (Cue a boatload of people saying "She won't ever listen to you ever when she is a teen!")  Recently we had a long talk while walking to a friend's house on the topic of how clothes and gender intersect.

Of course she was aware that men wearing feminine clothing are treated drastically differently than women wearing masculine clothing are.  Wendy can wear jeans and a tshirt all day every day and nobody blinks but I show up in a kilt and get stared at.  In a more extreme case Wendy could wear a fancy suit and get a few looks but me showing up in a pink dress with makeup on would get a *slightly* more extreme reaction.  However, knowing a thing intuitively isn't the same as having it laid out before you and needing to acknowledge that feminine presentation is not accepted in the same way that masculine presentation is.

We also talked some about androgyny, which was a new word for Elli.  Maybe it was even a new concept, I couldn't quite be sure about that.  At any rate she quickly caught on that androgyny tends to look a lot closer to masculine presentation than feminine and even mentioned a particular person she knows that dresses that way.  These sorts of concepts are big and take a lot of time to unpack when talking to an eight year old but she seemed to get it pretty fast.  It is challenging sometimes to find the correct line between telling her "You are oppressed and the world hates you." and "Everything is shiny and rainbows and you can do anything."  The world is pretty sexist but I don't want her to feel depressed about everything because despite that sexism the world is also full of wonder and joy.

Then she told me a story.  It started out with a group of people in which one member, a man, showed up to a meeting wearing lipstick.  The leader of the group then made a rule that any men wearing lipstick would get kicked out of the group.  Then the rest of the group got together in secret and decided that they would all wear lipstick to the next meeting regardless of gender.  I don't know that she knows the word solidarity but she sure gets the concept, and that story made me very proud indeed.

She is already getting set to stick it to the man at age eight.  Now I really want to see what comes next!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Learning isn't fun

I have decided that I want to get my latest game creation, Camp Nightmare, published.  This sounds like a grand adventure to some people, but there is a lot of pain in the ass to work through before anything fun comes of it.  I started reading about what I will have to do to make this happen and it was a rabbit hole with no end in sight.

I need to register a business and pay business taxes.  No wait, I don't have to do that, pending specific business type.  I need to charge and then remit taxes on anything I sell - no wait, I don't, until I hit a certain threshold of sales.  (I doubt I will ever hit it, so that is easy at least.)  I need to figure out if I have to do all kinds of stuff related to having an employee given that I hope to hire someone to create all the art for me.

And the art!  I need to learn about royalties, intellectual property rights, and make sure I can write up a good contract since I can't afford to pay someone to do that stuff for me.  There is also the need to be very sure I know exactly what I want and communicate that effectively because an artist contracted to make a particular thing isn't an employee who I can just tell 'eh, do it again, but different'.

I spent much of the day trying to figure out the things I will have to do to get a game published and barely scratched the surface.  This isn't even being complicated by the need to make a profit because I know that small scale self publishing isn't remotely profitable so I am just trying to make sure it is legal and that I don't waste any more money than I have to.

This is the sort of thing that stresses me out because there is no reward for doing it all perfectly but there can be big penalties for messing it up.  I don't mind pouring in energy to make something beautiful and just so but I find it hard to summon up the energy to figure out how to make it just barely good enough to get by.  It isn't especially challenging technically speaking - there are plenty of people who aren't so bright who manage it - but there is just so much stuff to do.

I am sure when I finally hold my game baby in my arms for the first time it will be wonderful but being pregnant with a board game sucks!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

A tool for 'debate'

The plane crash in Germany recently is undoubtedly a tragedy, all the more puzzling and difficult because it cannot be attributed to a broken widget or a lapse in attention but rather was a deliberate massacre.  Of course there is little known about what the pilot was thinking or what caused him to do this awful thing but hopefully we can use this as a catalyst to have a conversation about mental health and pilots if nothing else because that is actually a serious issue.  (Pilots have particular problems with not being allowed to use broad categories of drugs while flying, as I understand it.)

Instead it seems to be a flashpoint for other conflicts, like the one between feminists and incels.  (INvoluntary CELibates, straight men who complain on the internet about how they can't get dates.  Also how all women are evil, and the government should force women to have sex with them or they will commit atrocities.  Charming.)

I totally have sympathy for those who struggle to get dates, or those who think they will never be able to find somebody who will want them.  That is a damn hard thing.  I think we should have some measure of sympathy for that difficulty no matter the person is, what their gender is, what they look like, or whatever other challenges they face in dating.

That ends when they decide to cheer on murderers.  It turns out that this has been happening, with incels concluding that the pilot in question, Andreas Lubnitz, was an incel and was taking revenge on the world for his lack of dating success.  (That the facts don't support this at all doesn't seem to be any object.)  When you cast a pilot who kills hundreds of people as a hero fighting for the cause you suddenly lose all sympathy.  Poof!  It's gone.  When you say "But you gotta have some sympathy for these poor fellows.  Sure, they think massacres are great, but they haven't gotten laid in FOREVER." you should not expect me to melt and give you pats and kisses.

To be completely fair if you were already posting things on then you probably had no sympathy from me long before you cheered on a murderer, but that really does put it over the edge.

The internet is wonderful in that it allows people of like mind to form communities together.  Unfortunately there seems to be a community out there that is dedicated to making mentally ill people who commit acts of brutal savagery into martyrs for the cause... and the cause is "I want all the hot girls to sex me up NOW."