Tuesday, July 26, 2016

All the foods

The resort that the World Boardgaming Championships is at this year is a pretty nice place.  Compared to the previous venue which had tremendous problems like a lack of AC and random leaks (culminating in the building being shuttered this year!) it is a paradise.

The problem?  The food is brutally expensive.  I can't look at a sandwich for $12.99 US without cringing, and even though I do want to just stay in the zone and enjoy myself without worrying about expenses much, I can't do that at the prices I see.  But there are solutions, and they end up being even better than just eating out without even considering the monetary benefits.

A giant jar of pickles.  This is the solution to my food dilemma, or at least part of it.  I went to the grocery store to buy a huge stack of things that I can eat while sitting at the game table, and on that list was two 1 litre jars of pickles.  Also a bag of carrots, tons of fruit, and cereal that I eat straight out of the box.  Mini Wheats, naturally, since they are the easiest to eat without making a mess.  This way I can just reload on groceries every time I visit my room and I don't have to leave the game room to eat!

Plus it looks like I have enough food for about a week on $45 US, which would barely buy me one day worth of food in the restaurants around here.

I did get one player complaining of the smell of the pickles when I cracked them out during a game, but generally people just laugh at the fact that I have a full bag of carrots in my bag at all times.

It is a good end run around my money demon, because not having to think about money when I eat really makes the whole experience better.  Combine that with extra gaming time and I wonder why anybody eats in the restaurants.  Why would you when you can just munch down on a delicious carrot anytime you like?

Monday, July 25, 2016

Incompetence all around

I am currently at the World Boardgaming Championships.  The event is great so far, and I have had moderate success.  By which I mean I have won a lot of games, gotten through some playoff rounds, but have yet to place in any events.  That is all well and fine though because the two events I have gone in have both been games I am only modestly familiar with - Agricola and 7 Wonders.

However, I did have an adventure on the way here.  The night before arriving we stayed at a hotel 45 minutes away from the venue.  Upon arriving I realized my cell phone was missing, so I bugged the concierge to let me use their phone to call the old hotel to try to get it back.

I then spent the next 36 hours periodically calling my cell hoping someone would pick it up, and calling the hotel getting answering machines, vague statements, and nowhere near any useful progress.  A pro tip:  When someone loses their cell phone it is really quite difficult for them to give you a cell phone number at which they can be reached!

It was stressing me the hell out.  I couldn't know if someone had to call me in an emergency, I don't have a timekeeping device, and I suddenly lack a doorbell, not to mention the loss of money and time that replacement would require.  Just constantly thinking about when I was next supposed to contact the hotel to try to figure out if the person there might be able to check the lost and found was making me crazy.

Finally I just got in the car and drove back there to do it myself.  I arrived just as someone was going off shift, and when I got up to the desk the clerk told me "Oh, the only person who can check the lost and found just went off shift...."  I ran out of the hotel but she was already gone.  I was cursing myself roundly for not collaring the woman on the way out and asking my question, and gave the clerk quite the sob story about how I really needed my phone for all kinds of reasons.

Eventually she showed pity on me and said she was willing to check the one place she had the keys for.  We walked a ways to a sort of dirty utility room with all kinds of random junk in it.  At the back of the room was a cart used by cleaning people.  Buried on the cart under some random dirty towels was my phone.

Because clearly when you find a phone in a person's room the thing you do isn't send it to the front desk!  No, clearly you stash it under some crap in a closet and then leave it there forever.

I am caught between being ecstatic that my phone is found, and insanely frustrated that I spent so much energy spinning my wheels for no reason.  If I hadn't made a scene I would never have gotten that phone back.

But now all is well!  I am playing games, hanging around with all kinds of like minded people, and I am going to have a wonderful week.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Mud, and more mud

This past weekend I attended the Tough Mudder event I have been training for these past few months.  I had lots of worries about things that might stop me from completing the event, but I finished and had a wonderful time.

It was really messy.  No, messier than that.  I got so muddy on the last obstacle that I rinsed off 90% of the mud, then realized I was still muddier than I had ever been in my life.  So I rinsed off 90% of the remaining mud, and was only filthy and covered in mud.  After two more rounds of rinsing off 90% of the remaining mud I was only dirty, so the clothes went in the wash.

Of the 16 km running portion of the event I completed 14 km at a jog.  At that point my knee was really starting to scream and I was worried I would do permanent damage to myself if I kept pushing it, so I decided to just walk the last 2 km.  I did all of the obstacles no problem though, as most of those were based either on courage or upper body strength and I had plenty of those left.  The mudder had thousands of people running and a lot of them were gigantically muscled men, but a good number were normal sorts of folks, and maybe 40% women, so my raw strength was plenty to meet the minimums.  Cardio held out too, which was something I was worried about.  My training certainly did what it needed to do.

But my knee... not so much.  I figured that would be the sticking point, and it was.  I was kind of an idiot though and left my puffer in Toronto (even though I got the puffer strictly for the mudder...) and then when I borrowed a puffer I left that in my bag and didn't use it for the event anyway!  I ended up having a minor asthma coughing issue right near the end of the day after a swim in really cold water, but that ended up being only a temporary setback.

Walking the last 2 km in some notable pain wasn't much fun but man the obstacles were great.

Wade through a river!
Crawl through mud while electric shocks randomly pulse through wires that dangle onto your body!
Pull yourself up through a sloping culvert and then fall in to a pond!
Climb over slick hills of mud!
Get over rotating boxes placed in a mud pit!
Plus a dozen more!


My team was great too, because I went with two guys who had comparable preparation / skill / strength levels to my own and also we really agreed on most other things and could rant freely at each other.  Interestingly you didn't need a team, not really, because the event was cooperative and people all helped each other over the obstacles.  It was a really friendly affair with everyone being a good sport and putting in a ton of work to help others, regardless of the massive differences in people's ability.

I liked the logistics and preparation of the people running it.  Tough Mudder did a superb job.  There was just one thing that got to me, which was the 'pump you up' speech at the beginning.  They spent a lot of time trying to convince us that we were being inspirations to other people, particularly people facing things like critical illnesses or personal tragedy.  I don't see why this was part of the speech, and honestly trying to convince me that I was doing some kind of great good by running around and getting dirty felt really weird and inappropriate.  The other thing that was a big feature of the beginning of the race was a hardcore pro military message.  I am not going to cheer for the military, much less the military of a foriegn nation which has so much disaster and tragedy to answer for.  The patriotic pro-military glorification of the mudder really put a damper on it, though thankfully that stopped after we really got going.

Two days later my knee still isn't fully recovered, but it is pretty functional.  I have to be careful not to push too hard but I am able to do everything with minimal pain.  I have a nice variety of scratches and bruises still, but I expect I will be back to regular function pretty shortly.  I didn't break myself!

As to whether or not I will run another mudder... I don't know.  I liked it, but it was a lot of money.  I felt good finishing it, but I don't know if doing the same sorts of events over again will have the same thrill.

But I can say for sure that I am glad I did it once to find out, and particularly glad that I had the teammates I did.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Teenage problems

This past Friday Wendy and I were walking with Elli to a family dinner outing and had a conversation about teenage problems.  Specifically we were discussing what Elli would or could do in all kinds of situations surrounding alcohol.  Initially I just wanted her to understand that she should feel free to bring any problems or worries to us without fear of punishment in the years to come, but it turns out she already had a bunch of ideas on the subject.

What was so interesting to me was that she had lots of scenarios mapped out in her head.  She was thinking about specific locations, compositions of people, and other factors and was trying to figure out how she would respond.  The running theme was people offering her alcohol when she wasn't interested in partaking, and it seems she has no interest in trying out booze at all.

We have offered her a little bit of alcohol on a number of occasions and she has never said yes.  I am firmly of the belief that we should train children to deal with alcohol and other drugs by being honest about our own usage and exposing them to the idea of moderate, careful experimentation.  "Don't drink until you are 19, then go wild" is a recipe for disaster in my opinion.  I think a taste of alcohol for young children, escalating to a partial drink for tweens and then a drink or two for middling teenagers is the way to go.  Let them get a sense of what it is and take part in social rituals that involve alcohol in a responsible way and I think they will be less likely to go nuts when they can finally drink legally in public.

But Elli has always turned us down.  She seems to have no interest at all in alcohol, though she has never given us any particular reason for that.

Which is fine!  Pressuring a kid to try a bit of alcohol is obviously right out, but I think the offer of a carefully moderated small dose is a good one to have as a default.

We spent some time brainstorming possible ways she could cope with all the situations she came up with, and Wendy and I tried hard to always present multiple responses.  The idea is to make it clear that she never has to say yes to pressure to drink, and that if she needs out of that sort of situation she should feel free to do so in whatever way is necessary.  Friends who try to pressure you into inebriation aren't really friends, so lie, cheat, or sneak your way out if you have to.

I really want her to understand and believe that if she does end up barfing on somebody's lawn due to some poor choices she can still call us and ask for help without worry that we are going to have a fit.  We would certainly have a talk about how that was probably a bad idea, but I don't think meting out punishments for such overindulgences actually helps prevent them in future.

What I don't know is if any of this will actually help.  I made it clear semantically that we will help her out and that we don't mind experimentation but we hope for moderation, but I know that parents struggle to instill virtues and ideas in their children quite consistently.  Can I really expect to be different?  The trouble is that so often these things happen so randomly.  One particular friend, one special (or disastrous) party, and the course of a child's life can be altered dramatically.  I can't control those things.

The only thing I can do is to try to instill some simple ideas into her head:  Experiment, but do it slowly and carefully.  We will help you, even if you do something disastrous.  If you don't want to do something, get the hell out even if other people are trying to push you in.

I hope that is enough.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Just pain

I am doing double training right now.  Firstly I am training for the Puerto Rico event at World Boardgaming Championships, and second I am training for my Tough Mudder.  I have been doing consistent strength training for many months now and I am confident that is in a good place, but when I injured my knee my training for running kinda stopped short.  As such I am not worried about the crazy events like climbing over stuff, swinging from monkey bars, crawling through mud, etc, but I am a bit concerned about how well I will hold up on the 15 km of running I will be doing.

The Tough Mudder website had a thing where you could type in your fitness benchmarks to get an assessment, and they asked how I feel after running 3 miles.  This concerned me, because I haven't run 3 miles at a stretch... ever?  That they expect I know the answer to this was worrying!

The real thing that got me was my lungs.  Often in the past when I ran I would end up hacking and coughing and be unable to run further.  I have minor asthma, not enough to be a danger, but enough to stop exercise cold sometimes.  Occasionally I would get a stitch in my side, and that stopped me too.  It was never my legs that gave out, always my torso was the weak link.  Since I hurt my knee though, even my legs failing was a real possibility.

So today was the real test.  Could I, having only really done a few 1 km runs in the past week, cover any reasonable distance without falling to bits?

Turns out the answer is yes.  I set up a 5 km course and ran it no problem in 27 mins.  I figure 11.1 km/hour is pretty reasonable, though I honestly don't have any useful benchmarks.  My lungs were fine, no side stitching, just muscle pain.  And pain is no problem.  My body was in no danger of disobeying me, so all I had to do was cope with my legs screaming bloody murder, and that isn't a big issue.

The way I figure it, if my knee ends up feeling like it is really in a bad way, I might have to stop, or at least only walk.  If all I have to deal with is muscle pain though from the effort I am fine, because Passion is going to be in charge throughout the Tough Mudder and he gives precisely zero fucks about pain.  As long as Director is convinced that the pain is merely short term suffering and not indicative of real damage then he will happily stay in the background and let Passion have his fun.

So now even though I am clearly not in the kind of shape that I could be if I had been pushing really hard I am in good enough shape that I can complete the mudder, barring some accident.  I figure I just keep running 5 km a day for the next four days, keep up my strength routine, and then stop doing it three days before the actual event to let my body fully repair and heal.

Go time!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

A lack of solidarity

The other day I was talking with someone about the BLM disruption of the Toronto Pride parade.  He was surprised that it happened because he figured Pride must already be incredibly inclusive and sensitive to racial issues - after all, since queer people are persecuted, they must really understand racial persecution and stand against it, right?

It is an easy mistake to make, but it is still a mistake.

There are no end of gay people who are really racist.  Same goes for disabled people being homophobic, or people of colour being ableist.  Of course all the other permutations apply too, these are just an illustrative cycle.  (Not that I am saying that minority groups are more bigoted than the general population - just that I don't think there is much difference.)

Just because a group is oppressed or attacked does not make them more sympathetic to others who have similar issues.  Just look at all the brutally racist, sexist, Islamophobic atheists on the internet.  (I despise religion, but scapegoating Islam as 'the bad religion' is bullshit.)  Atheists are mistrusted in the US about as much as Muslims are, but there is plenty of bad blood between them.  Also we shouldn't forget that there are plenty of Muslims who hate atheists in the same way!

You might hope that oppression and suffering would make people sympathetic to others, but it doesn't work that way so much.  Sure, it works if they are suffering for the same reason - I am sure you would find that gay people are very sympathetic towards victims of anti gay bigotry, for example, but even then there are exceptions.

It would be great if everyone could develop empathy for others who have suffered, and that all it took was suffering oneself to bring out that empathy.

But that isn't how the world is.  People's empathy for others is trainable, to some extent, and genetic, to some extent, but it doesn't just materialize the first time you have something terrible happen to you.

Which I think is an important facet of intersectional feminism that we ought not to forget.  You don't understand the way somebody else suffers just because you have suffered yourself.  Being a person of colour is a different thing from being gay in this way, and being a gay person of colour is another entirely different experience, not necessarily derivable from understanding the two things separately.

So we all need to keep our minds open and accept that though we understand how our lives are hard, that doesn't automatically mean we understand how other people's lives are hard.  This is true for everyone, and the learning process to try to understand others takes time and effort.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Disrupting the disruptors

At the Pride parade this past weekend there was quite a hiccup - Black Lives Matter protesters staged a sit in, blocking the parade from moving for 30 mins.  The standoff ended when a Pride representative signed an agreement that BLM insisted on, and eventually things went back to the plan.  The BLM demands looked like this:

Some of those demands seem like they would meet little resistance.  6, for example, is particularly hard to argue with.  Pride is dominated by white men, and increasing diversity would be a good thing.  I think you would find that this demand has pretty broad base support.  Removing all police floats though, number 8, seems much more controversial.  Even though Pride signed the petition at the time, they are now claiming that they won't necessarily do everything on it, which comes as no surprise whatsoever to me.  BLM got attention with their protest, which is obviously a big part of their agenda, but signing this document was just a stunt.  It isn't binding, especially because you can't expect a document signed under pressure from a group breaking the law to be upheld by a court, just as you wouldn't be expected to honour an agreement signed at gunpoint.

Decades ago I would have just figured that the police should just wait a few minutes then arrest the people blocking the street.  Go through the proper channels, I would have said.  Talking to other people and reading articles about this I found a lot of people who agreed with teenage me.  These days my responses are quite different.  The proper channels are put in place and enforced by the very people BLM are protesting against.  The police and the courts incarcerate and assault them at much higher rates, so no wonder they aren't interested in bowing to law enforcement authority or rules.  Those rules don't serve them, so why should they serve the rules?

I am not a big fan of disrupting Pride, but queer people of colour are more oppressed than white queer people, and pushing that problem to the front of people's consciousness is a good thing.  I hope BLM wasn't actually thinking that the signing of this list of demands was going to be binding, but I suspect they never thought that.  They wanted publicity, attention, and for their demands to be known and spread far and wide.  Their actions this weekend certainly achieved that.

In particular I was thinking a lot about the removal of police floats from the parade.  I think there is value in police symbolically extending an olive branch to people they have oppressed in a huge way historically, (and in a much smaller way today).  Police publicly supporting queer people is good.

But you cannot deny that people in that parade are unfairly attacked, harassed, and pressured by police.  They don't want police around in their parades, and you can't fault them for that.  Police make people like me a bit wary, and I am a straight white guy, not someone the police traditionally inflict grief upon.  I can't even imagine how it would feel to know that a group that consistently attacks and occasionally kills people like you are marching in a parade with you.

I wonder how police could still offer their olive branch, still try to show their commitment to changing their old ways, while not torpedoing Pride for the very people who need that place the most.  I don't have answers, but I do hope that Pride finds a way.