Monday, December 11, 2017

On the way out

In my home it is taken as a given that books are a sacred thing, to be cherished and protected.  That is pretty much fine by me, as I like books.

But Wendy and Pinkie Pie go beyond that.  They don't just want to keep their books in good shape and have them around... they want books stacked on all surfaces, piled high in teetering stacks, threatening the safety of bystanders.

For them, hoarding books is a matter of necessity.

But eventually I get to the point where I can't even add a new book to Pinkie Pie's room because the bookcase simply will not accept more.  I suppose the threat of not getting new books because there is no place to put them is a real one for the two of them, so they finally let me go through Pinkie Pie's books and sort out the stuff that has to go.

This is what we decided to part with:


Note that all of these books came off of a single bookcase, and that bookcase is still currently full.  If you wanted to add any new books to it they would have to be stacked on top of other piles in unruly piles.  How it is that this many books managed to come off a single bookcase that is still full is kind of beyond me, as it seems like that shouldn't be possible.  Yet there is the evidence in front of my eyes.

Wendy and Pinkie Pie both struggle getting rid of things.  I, on the other hand, would love to get rid of about half of our things but they won't let me. 

Long term I suspect we are in a pretty good place in terms of this compromise.  If we did things my way I would certainly end up needing things that I had thrown out.  If we did things the way Wendy and Pinkie Pie want we would be tripping over all of our junk and never be able to find anything in the heap.  Our compromise leaves us mostly fine, with nobody entirely satisfied.  That seems to be how compromises go.

If you have a kid age 3-10 and want some books, sing out, I have them just sitting here waiting to be read.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

What I really want

Recently I decided I should go look at gym memberships.  The Good Life gym right beside my place was the obvious choice, as I certainly won't commute serious distances just to work out.  A crappy gym right in my building is far better than a great gym a long distance away.

I knew that the salespeople you talk to when you wander into a gym were aggressive and usually annoying but this experience was weird.  The woman trying to sell me on a membership referred to me as a monster on two or three occasions - in a complimentary sort of way, suggesting that I am strong and powerful, but it was offputting.  I don't want to be buttered up like that.

I didn't buy right at the time, but the sale was ending in 1 day so I was under pressure to sign up to get a free month.  The next evening just two hours before the sale would end I wandered into the Good Life to try to sign up.  I had finally decided that despite the annoying salespeople I should bite the bullet and get a gym membership.  Unfortunately all the salespeople were gone by that late in the day and they couldn't sign me up so they promised to extend the sale for another day for me.

I wasn't shocked that they could randomly extend the sale - I am quite used to prices being flexible and vary by the whim of the seller.  It sure did take the pressure off though.

But I felt crappy.  I went home and played my semi final Blood Bowl match and my terrible mood caused me to play badly.  I just felt all out of sorts.

Finally I figured it out.  Though I logically had reasoned through why a gym membership made sense, I *really* didn't like the idea emotionally.  My money demon is stronger than my desire to get big, it would seem.  More importantly though I realized that if I am going to spend $830 on a gym membership maybe I should figure out if there is anything I would rather spend $830 on that isn't a gym membership.

If the gym isn't even the top of my list of priorities then I ought to buy whatever is on top instead, and stop when my purchases stop making sense.

When I looked at it like that everything changed.  I can think of lots of things I would rather spend $830 on!  I would rather buy a bunch of board games and computer games.  I would rather buy flights to visit people far away.  I would rather get an awesome tattoo.

So if I have not yet done those things, then getting a gym membership makes no sense.  Once I reasoned this out and decided to just keep going to my building's crappy little gym I felt lots better.

Sometimes raw emotional reactions are a good clue to lead you to the correct decision.  One day I hope to be better at the skill of figuring out when to trust my impending sense of doom and believe that there are good reasons for it.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Wise man

Over the past half year I have ended up playing the role of polyamory guru to a few people.  It wasn't a thing I actively sought out but I ended up in the position of having people find out about my relationships and decide to seek me out for advice.  I admit I quite like the role, and I was inordinately pleased when this happened.  For one it shows a certain amount of respect for me, which feels good, and also I just like giving advice, particularly on this topic.

People who start out from a monogamous situation and then try polyamory usually end up in all kinds of messes.  There are well known lists of things that they do wrong quite consistently, and I had some hopes that I could alleviate that.  I have read a lot and had my own experiences over the past 5 years so I should be able to give lots of good advice - surely my students will experience no difficulties whatsoever, right?

Right?

Wrong.

Obviously no matter how good the advice is everyone's relationships are a mess.  That is just the way of the world, and my advice is certainly not good enough to prevent the inevitable.  Fact is, the only reasonable outcome I could expect is that my advice could shave off a few rough edges.

I think I managed that, at least. 

But I definitely enjoyed the process of talking people through difficult experiences and changes to their mindsets.  I liked answering questions and asking my own questions to get people to figure out the things they wanted and to understand their own unquestioned assumptions.

Nudging people towards revelation is fun, even when I know it can only be a nudge and they have to get there on their own, making all their own mistakes, as well as finding their way to their own triumphs.

Doing this has made me think that maybe I should find a way to do this consistently, maybe even professionally.  It is something I do well, something I take pride in, and something I feel is useful to the world.  I don't need people to follow my advice, as I know that generally they will ask for advice and then do whatever they want anyway.  I just want the chance to make them think about the paths that they might otherwise not even notice.

Now all I need is a mountaintop to sit on and a long beard to stroke as I consider questions from worthy seekers of knowledge.  That, or a website, either way.

Monday, November 27, 2017

A joint problem

A few months ago I added in leg workouts to my lifting regimen.  This was done primarily for health reasons as I have always been perfectly happy with my legs in terms of appearance.  The upper body workouts were motivated in large part by vanity, but the legs was something I added to be strong and healthy rather than pretty.

It worked, and quickly.  My pants don't fit properly anymore and my leg strength has increased drastically, as muscles tend to do over the first section of a training run.  People tell me my legs look and feel different, which I kind of can't see myself, but I believe it. I am lifting about 50% more weight on variable weight exercises, and have increased my number of squats on a fixed weight from 10 to 25.  Big numbers!

The trouble is that I am hurting myself and breaking things.

The hurting myself part is bad.  I need to fix that.

The breaking things part is all bragging rights.  I mean, who doesn't want to say that they lifted too much weight and broke the weight machine?  I certainly want to say that!  Sure, any reasonable person would conclude that the weight machine slowly wore down over years of use and the metal pin holding it together just happened to snap when I was using it... but I would rather say that I am just too strong for the world to handle and I busted the machine because MIGHTY.

There are problems though, namely that hurting myself thing.  My knees are not great.  Under normal circumstances they work just fine but when I do repetitive leg exercises I end up in pain, and I sure don't want to damage my joints.  Those don't repair easily.  Over the last week or so my knees have been complaining some and I think it is because I have pushed my squat reps up too high.

The trouble is that I can't differentiate between doing too much squatting overall and simply doing too many reps.  Clearly my current style of doing low weight and tons of reps is a problem.  It is possible that I would be fine if I were stacking on tons of weight and only doing a few reps, but it is also possible that I just need to stop squatting completely.

I can definitely say that the current style is not going to work long term.  I don't have a squat rack so I am just holding 18 kilos in each hand and squatting till I can't go anymore.  However, instead of finding that my thighs can't take it I actually end up either with my arms giving out or stopping because I feel like I need to puke.  This is not the crushing leg workout I was hoping for!

The universe seems to be shoving me bodily towards a real gym.  My leg machine is broken (because of overwhelming MIGHTINESS) and squats don't work because I can't do it properly and I am hurting my knees while not actually working my leg muscles as hard as I want.

Might be that it is time for my desire to get strong to finally put my money demon down for the count.  Time to go see what Good Life fitness has to offer aside from extremely annoying salespeople.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The big ask

I usually watch the youtube videos that vlogbrothers put out.  They have consistently interesting and fun material, and I like their politics.  I just saw the latest one though and it pinged one of my pet peeves:  public marriage proposals.  They showed some footage from one as though it was a great and romantic sort of gesture when I tend to see these things as extremely coercive.


Proposals in general are fine, of course.  The problem is putting someone in the terrible position of having to answer such a question in public.  Instead of getting an honest answer you ratchet up the social pressure on them to say yes to a terrifying degree, especially if they don't want to cause you pain and humiliation... which they probably don't, if you have any reason at all for the proposal.

When you try to find out if someone will make a serious legal committment to you, as well as a serious social committment, you ought to make damn sure that they do so freely and happily.  Putting on the pressure in a public situation might end up fine if they are happy to say yes but it totally trashes their ability to ask questions, express doubt, or just say no.

Upon asking such a question you certainly don't want a negative answer but a negative answer then is drastically superior to a cancelled wedding or a divorce.  I know people who ended up married with massive regrets because they felt they couldn't stop the train once it got going, and I have never seen it go well.

If you want to do a big public proposal you have an obligation to ask the person ahead of time.  If they are fine with it then go ahead - surely some people like the idea.  But unless you have confirmed that they want to be put to a serious decision with massive social pressure to answer a particular way in a public setting, bloody well ask in private.

It is hard enough to say no even with nobody watching.  Don't make it worse, especially if you are a man asking a woman.  They get enough pressure to say yes to men already.

Narcomancy

I just started reading another series by N K Jemisin, beginning with the book The Killing Moon.  I gave her novel Fifth Season a huge thumbs up review this summer and this book was also fantastic.  Not quite as good, mind, possibly because The Killing Moon was written years ago so she has improved in her craft.  If so, it only makes me look forward to her next books even more.

The story is based in a fantasy world vaguely modeled on ancient Egypt, but with magic.  The magic of this land is called narcomancy because it is based on the power of dreams and relates to human minds and souls.  I love the name narcymancy so much, I can't even express it.

The historical fiction aspect of the book reminds me a bit of Guy Gavriel Kay's style.  Like Kay Jemisin blends recognizable historic groups and geography with new physics structures in ways that are really appealing.  They both write compelling heroes and villains but I find both are best at building worlds for the reader to explore rather than building characters.  The thing you really want to do in the books is walk the streets of the towns they describe and watch the unfolding history before you.

Just like in the Fifth season Jemisin makes room in the book for people with all kinds of styles of loving that aren't the standard monogamous, heterosexual pattern.  You will not find the prodigal son hunting for a magic sword after which he marries the girl of his dreams in these books.  People love other people in all kinds of ways, and Jemisin includes queer identities of many types among the characters.  The great thing though is it blends in perfectly.  She doesn't try to hammer home some kind of agenda in a hamfisted fashion; rather the characters just do what they do and it slides in seamlessly into the story being told.

One other thing that Jemisin does well is the examination of the price and burden of power.  Her characters are often extremely powerful users of magic and they go through all kinds of trials and challenges figuring out what they should do with the power they have.  Sometimes they make good decisions, sometimes not, and it is often difficult to figure out who is truly evil.  Even the people you feel are the baddies usually have reasons for what they do that aren't just selfish or pointlessly destructive.  There is a great deal of nuance in the paths that these characters choose and the fact that their power makes their choices influence a great many people makes it so much harder for them.

The wikipedia article about this book concludes that it got mostly good reviews but that it lacked maps and the geography was sometimes confusing.  I completely agree with that, and I think it is one thing that the book could really use, and it would be easy to add in.  Knowing where various kingdoms are and how they relate to other geographic features would help in understanding the political parts of the book, no doubt.

This is a good book, and certainly does a lot of things that appeal to me in particular.  If you like historical fiction with cool worldbuilding and examination of the trials of power and control, I recommend it.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Getting wet

This past weekend I went to a party and got a drink poured on my head.  This is a new thing for me, and I was kind of torn about how to react to it.  On one hand I have seen plenty of drinks tossed on people in movies and sports shows and such so I kind of wondered what it would be like, but on the other hand I didn't really want a drink tossed on me.

It came at the end of the night when I was saying my goodbyes and on my way out the door.  Just before exiting I ended up in a conversation with two people, and myself and the other guy in the conversation were talking about how our pants don't fit because we have been exercising and our legs and butts got bigger.  The woman in the conversation was angry at us about this because, according to her, we don't know anything about clothes not fitting.  She threw food at me to emphasize her point.

This was strange, but potato chips don't do much damage so I didn't fuss about it.

The conversation shifted to language and she and I found another point of disagreement.  I don't think there is any proper form to language and it should be described and evaluated based on efficacy of communication, not adherence to a particular ruleset.  For example, I would be perfectly happy with someone using u instead of you because it makes a hell of a lot more sense and everyone knows what it means.  She found this to be anathema.

Then she threw a wine cork at me and it bounced off of my head.

Again, I felt like I didn't take much damage so I shouldn't worry overly about it but it did seem rude to do such a thing.

I decided that it was time to go.  She elected to stand over the sole exit and lean over the railing with her drink and informed me that she was going to pour it over my head if I left.  There was no other way to get out of the place and I thought it unlikely that she would go through with this threat - it does seem particularly unfriendly to tell a person they may not leave under threat of being soaked.

I walked down the stairs to go home and halfway down her entire drink came splattering down onto me.  Of course it also got all over the stairs and made a huge mess.  I stood there for a moment, kind of shocked, then noticed that the host had wandered over with some paper towels.  I think he had brought them for a laugh because of the threat of the drink pouring and hadn't actually expected it to occur.

Nonetheless I cleaned myself up and he cleaned up the stairs and the person who poured the drink just watched.  Then I left.

I wasn't at all sure what I should feel about this.  The drink didn't do any damage to me so I can't find any reason to be upset.  And yet I think it was a thing she should not have done.  There would be people out there who would be really upset by this sort of thing, particularly since it was accompanied by the threat.

I am a big dude.  A woman threatening me in this way does not actually put me out and I don't feel any intimidation or worry.  Lots of other people might though, which makes me evaluating this action a tricky thing.  Do I evaluate it in the context of what it did to me?  In that case it was rude but not particularly a problem.  Or should I look at it as a person doing this to another random person at a party?  In that case it is more troubling.

I know that other people don't have the same experiences and privilege I do so I often spend time looking at events like this and wondering how I would feel about them if I were different, and thus how they should be treated.  I rarely can figure out if people who do things to me that I shrug off but which would upset some others do it because they correctly read me as not being susceptible to that sort of thing, or if they just do shit to whoever they want.  Would she have done this to a woman?  Or just any person smaller than her?  Or was it something she felt was fine because I am obviously not physically intimidated by her?  I wish I knew.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The end of a career

With the sexual misconduct stories surrounding people like Louis CK, Kevin Spacey, and Harvey Weinstein in high gear I am seeing all kinds of takes on what to do about it.  Most people seem in agreement that this is horrible but some of them think we should destroy these men's ability to work in their chosen field forevermore and some think that is too much and that they should be let off with a scolding.

I don't know if it comes from simply admiring the work of these moguls of entertainment or if it is more about misogyny (at least in the cases of Weinstein and Lous CK) but there is something that causes people to speak out about how we ought not to ruin the careers of people revealed to be serial abusers.  There are so many people out there saying that oh yes, the things that Weinstein and Louis CK and Kevin Spacey did were bad, but should we really ruin a person's career over them sexually abusing people?

Yes.  Burn it to the fucking ground.

Make no mistake.  This isn't me saying "It is acceptable to ruin their career to send a message."  It isn't me saying "I can live with their careers being ruined in order to protect people."  It is much more than that.  It is me saying "We MUST destroy their careers completely and utterly."

Imagine a person who over the course of decades repeatedly hit people with their car.  Over and over and over they ran people over inflicting horrible pain and suffering.  We would naturally insist that this criminal lose their licence forever because they clearly cannot be trusted in a car.

The same applies here.  All three of these men used their career success as a weapon to hurt others.  They used their influence and fame and connections to assault people on a regular basis.  They leveraged their fortunes and friends to cover up their misconduct.  Their careers were not separable from the evil they inflicted; they were the vehicle by which these men caused harm.

All three of these men, and many others, used their careers as weapons to injure people.  They clearly cannot be trusted with power, influence, or recognition.  We know that when they are put in positions of authority and respect they immediately and repeatedly leverage those things to harm others.

So yes, we should ruin the careers of people who are guilty of repeated and continuous sexual misconduct.  Not by accident, and not because we can't find any other way, but because this is exactly what these people deserve and because they have proved themselves unworthy of respect, influence, and adoration.

None of these men are going to starve.  They have lots of money as it is, and they will be able to find more.  They absolutely deserve ignominy, and they deserve to find out what it is like to have people refuse to let them be part of show business, just the way they threatened to do to others who might have outed them for their reprehensible behaviour.

That strikes me as the thing that is as close to justice as we are likely to get, barring prosecution, and while if they are prosecuted that would be a fine thing as far as I am concerned I am not holding my breath.

You don't have to hate The Usual Suspects or throw out your DVDs of Louis CK comedy specials.  But you should do your damndest to make sure they can't get work making anything more.  They are plenty of other people in the world who will step up to fill those roles, and perhaps these consequences will prevent others from trying the same thing.  We can only hope it is so.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Entertainment

1 week ago I was in a club in Boston watching a Dresden Dolls concert.  This was mostly because I was following Wendy and The Flautist around; they are huge fans of the Dresden Dolls and since they were going to Boston to watch the concert I went too.  There were other things to see and do in Boston of course, but this was the big thing that set our schedule.

For most of the people in the club the concert seemed to go well.  The band was talented and put on a good show but it managed to miss with me in a lot of ways, some of which I can articulate, some of which I find myself at a loss to describe.

I certainly loved the drummer's costume.  I want a tuxedo covered in red sequins now, though I don't suppose that it would look that good on me since I am not drumming in a club with lights flashing all over me.

The music wasn't quite my thing.  I am not really sure why though.  There are some songs that I love because I love the lyrics, and some songs that I love even though there aren't any lyrics, but I found that the Dresden Dolls managed to thread between those two points and have lyrics that I couldn't follow.  I bet all the people in the audience who knew the songs and could anticipate the words followed along just fine, but I was mostly lost.

After the concert people asked me what I thought of it.  I was stuck because I don't want to be the downer that tells everyone who is clearly flying high with excitement that I didn't like the show, but I also don't want to pretend or lie either.

I told them that I had felt intense loneliness and alienation at the show.  The music wasn't really my thing, (though the performance was really well executed), but the thing that made me feel lonely and alienated was mostly the speeches the singer Amanda Palmer made.  They were impassioned speeches directed at her people, the people who are her ardent fans.  I am sure they resonated with those people but they made me feel like I was in the wrong place.

When someone gives a speech you can take the words they say and expect wildly different responses based on the listeners state of mind.  I knew the people that loved her already would love the speeches, but when I looked at the literal words they made it clear that Amanda Palmer does not think much of people like me.  I don't know that my interpretation of her words accurately reflects her values, but it certainly worked to make me feel unwelcome.  It is easy to give a speech knowing that the people who will hear it will interpret your words in a favourable light, always keeping in mind that they know and trust you.  When someone outside your circle hears that speech though it can be a disaster as they don't have that trust and have their own biases in place and your speech can be heard an entirely different way.

It is odd to me that I am still thinking about this.  After all, I went to a concert, the music was okay but not really my thing, and one of the people in the band said some stuff I didn't like.  Hardly seems like the sort of thing that should matter, really.

And yet it has stuck with me.

Take it all off

A little while ago I watched a youtube video by a guy called Omar Isuf.  He does bodybuilding / weightlifting videos and he wanted to talk about a thing he had noticed - his views and revenue from videos are strongly influenced by what he wore in the video.


When he wears a baggy tshirt his views are way down, but when he wears a tiny tank top his views go way up.  Extrapolating a little we can safely guess that he could increase his views even more by losing the shirt entirely and stripping down as much as youtube guidelines will let him get away with.

Omar is grumpy about this.  He wants his show to be successful because of the information he provides and his talent for entertainment, not just how good he looks while stripped down.  I get that.

But let's be realistic for a minute.  Omar isn't just choosing a shirt but otherwise appearing on the show completely naturally.  He shaves his chest, arms, back, and probably other parts of him to increase his aesthetic appeal.  He does his absolute best to look as cut as possible to try to maximize views.  There are a lot more things you could do to look better for a show like this, and although I don't know what Omar does I am sure lots of fitness folks making videos dehydrate themselves, chug laxatives to shrink their stomachs, starve themselves before shows, and use any number of other tactics to look as close to the ideal as possible.  Omar didn't talk about any of those things, largely because he wouldn't want to admit that level of manipulation, but he did talk about his shirt which he clearly he can't deny choosing.

Omar is right though that we shouldn't be choosing our fitness trainers based on their clothes or looks.  Looking hot mostly says you are young, have fortunate genetics, and that you have the money to pour into food and training to get that way.  None of that tells you anything about the quality of the information the viewer is getting.  Looking hot does say something about experience and dedication, but those are pretty weakly correlated to knowing what you are talking about too.

But we choose everything based on the attractiveness of the person we are dealing with.  Want to sell a lot of mattresses?  Look hot.  Want to get a promotion for an accounting position?  Look hot.  Want to get elected to Canada's top office?  Look hot. 

This focus on the appearance of the person giving fitness advice is silly but it isn't any more silly that the focus on appearance in any other part of life.

I am super sympathetic to the point of view that which shirt I wear, or my choice to refuse to wear one at all, should not influence my job prospects.  But let's face it:  If I go to an interview in a tank top or shirtless I will be laughed at at best, or have an interview with the cops at worst.  The fitness industry is just like everywhere else - appearance matters more than pretty much anything else.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Leftovers for me

Tonight was the first of Pinkie Pie's birthday celebrations.  Last year through a series of strange events she managed to have four birthday celebrations, and that was TOO MUCH BIRTHDAY.  Mostly for me, I think Pinkie Pie was fine with it all.  This year we have kept it down to two birthdays which is much more manageable.  We and the family went out for dinner and as usual I ended up vacuuming up extra food.

Wendy gave me a quarter of her tuna salad and Pinkie Pie gave me the dregs of her tomato meat sauce.  I had an entree and an extra side soup and was still hungry - this is the power of squats.  At the end of the meal after I had a whole stack of plates in front of me there was still a plate with half a fish dinner on it.

I started at the plate.

I wanted that fish.  Veggies too, but mostly the fish.

The person who ordered the fish dinner was going to leave and it wasn't clear what was being done with the fish.

I would be perfectly happy if they packed up the fish and took it home.  I would also be happy with me eating the fish.  What would make me sad is the fish being dumped in the garbage.

But it is really awkward asking about this.  I don't want to take people's food away from them, especially if they were looking forward to taking their leftovers home.  But if I ask them if they are packing it up there is a really awkward moment where they feel pressured to give me the food and I hate applying that kind of pressure.

Other people really don't seem to care about tossing out food.  Certainly not the way I do.  Oftentimes it seems like it is an afterthought, like it hardly matters if the food gets eaten or not.  It matters to me!  Partly because I want to eat the food, partly because I can't stand the thought of perfectly good food being thrown out for no reason.

I often seem to end up in the position of springing into action when the server is whisking the food away saying "wait, wait! I want that!" and grabbing food off of the plate that is currently being transported away from the table.

People look at me so strangely when this happens.  Normally everyone seems to think I am being gross because who wants food that someone else has touched?

Me!  I want it.  Pick me, pick me!

Hell, I have a hard time watching people I don't know at other tables send food back.  I want to flag down the server and get them to deliver a stranger's food to my table so I can fill up.

I ended up asking if the fish was going to be packed up or thrown out.  The person who ordered the fish didn't seem to figure out what I was asking at first, but eventually it came out that they were going to toss it so I ate all the fish and veggies and was well pleased.

I get why other people don't want to share food and would rather throw it out than have someone else eat it.  We have strong taboos about doing things that might share germs and there is some value in that.  I think though that most people go far beyond that and end up associating someone else's stuff with grossness in a way that has nothing to do with health and safety.  Moreover I think that this feeling that people have causes a terrible amount of waste, both in food and otherwise.  People want new, they don't want something someone else has had, and this combined with our worries about contamination causes us to waste so much food.

As we were about to leave the table I noticed that someone had left one third of a beer undrunk.  I couldn't stop myself, and I grabbed the beer and downed it.  It wasn't bad.  For beer.

You can't take me anywhere.

Monday, October 30, 2017

I have a large posterior and I am incapable of telling a falsehood

My butt is getting bigger.  This is not exactly a new complaint for a 39 year old but what is slightly new is that I don't mind at all because it seems to be growing because of my workout routine.

This fall I decided to add on a bunch of leg exercises to my routine:  Leg curls, leg extensions, leg raises, and squats.  Mostly this was just because it seemed like the right thing to do - the upper body workout definitely was motivated in large part by vanity but I am perfectly happy with my butt and leg aesthetics.  However, it seemed like it would be better for my health and fitness if I diversified a bit, so I added in 2 leg days a week.

Initially I tried doing 20 squat sets and I ended up the way a lot of overzealous beginners do.  I spent a few days limping around, barely able to walk because I overdid it.  I found that I could do 10 squat sets consistently and I have been ramping it up from there so that now I am using the same weight but doing 3 sets of 20 comfortably.  The improvement is real and I can feel it both in my exercises and in my daily routine.  My legs are a *lot* stronger.

But when I looked at my butt one day recently it was a bit of a surprise.  I was expecting my arms to get bigger from working out and so when that happened it was a not a surprise and in fact my reaction was "Good, good, now I need MORE."  My butt getting bigger was just weird though.  Rationally I knew this was an expected consequence, but emotionally it was bizarre.

This illustrated the huge difference between my perception of upper body and lower body strength.  No matter how big my arms and chest get I still see myself as a skinny teenager and it isn't enough.  I doubt that any achievable amount of size will change this feeling.  It intrigues me to look at myself because I can simultaneously note the changes in size in my arms and still react to myself as if I am as thin as I ever was.  Somehow I can perceive myself as both big and tiny at the same time.  Brains are so cool!

For some people, mostly men, this sense of being too small is a serious problem and is called muscle dysmorphia.  It leads to people throwing their lives away to spend more time in the gym to fend off guilt and feelings of inadequacy.  They also often abuse all kinds of muscle building drugs in pursuit of the unattainable goal of being the absolute biggest.  There are enough parallels between muscle dysmorphia and eating disorders such as anorexia that many people call it bigorexia instead.  Even the way society reacts to it can be an issue because many people with either a problem trying to get small or trying to get big will get compliments on their bodies and feel guilty as though they have to do even more to earn that praise.  In watching a bunch of fitness and weightlifting videos over the past while I have seen far too many enormous men with astounding bodies who feel despair over not being big enough; it is clear that this desire is completely uncoupled from reality.

I am not facing real problems in this regard though because even though I have that basic perception of myself of not being big enough my response to it has been to be in the gym for 40 minutes a day and eat a lot of protein and other food in general.  I am stronger and healthier than ever before and it hasn't been hurting the rest of my life in any appreciable way so it isn't a mental health problem, just a thing I do.

Getting bigger legs and a bigger butt have actually been an annoyance in one way.  It is hurting my numbers on exercises that use my body weight.  My overall weight is going up faster than my arm strength so I am stagnating or even regressing on exercises like pushups, dips, and pullups.  Hauling all that extra ass up into the air is tough work!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

The big man

Over the past couple of years I have watched Narcos and El Chapo on Netflix.  Both are dramatized stories of true events focusing on drug dealers of a few decades past - Pablo Escobar in Colombia and El Chapo in Mexico.

It turns out I really like stories about drug dealers, at least in part because I get to watch stories about people who live in worlds I have never touched.  The thing that really blows my mind is the henchmen.  I watch stories where the military attacks a place where a drug lord is hiding and the drug lord's bodyguards stand there and fight the military to the death.  The henchmen are facing an enemy that has more people, bigger guns, armour, communication, and even helicopters and tanks for backup.  The henchmen are just dudes with guns. 

And yet they stand there and fight, dying like flies.

It isn't just the dying.  There is an attitude there that I find totally baffling - like somehow it is an honour to fight and die for the boss.  The bosses clearly expect people to place themselves and their families on a pedestal and be eager to die to protect them.  It is a class thing, I think, like the bosses are one class, their henchmen are the next one down, and below them is everybody else.  Like royalty before them these bosses think that they somehow deserve people's undying loyalty and gratitude.

That loyalty boggles my mind.  I mean, they can see that the boss doesn't have loyalty to them.  They know that the boss regularly murders anyone he wants to, including any of his henchmen who annoys him.  I guess I can understand loyalty a little bit when it goes both ways, but when one person clearly thinks of the other as disposable, expendable, interchangeable, it is hard for me to understand that willingness on the part of the henchman to die.

Certainly some among the henchmen are just evil, violent people who thrive on being part of a power structure that lets them hurt other people with impunity.  But some of them spend their days just standing around protecting the boss, doing nothing, knowing that the only thing they are there to do is to die to protect someone who will be running away. 

It doesn't make any sense to me.

I know that there are tremendous differences between these men and me.  They are mostly drawn from desperately poor group of people and had little in the way of options.  The choices available to them were likely manual labour, unemployment, or crime and in that situation crime starts to look pretty good.

So there is an element of economic sense for many of the henchmen because they had so few options.  They just hope that they are one of the ones who makes a good living working for the boss and doesn't end up catching a bullet. 

But there is something in them that isn't just necessity or desperation.  There is some love for the boss that transcends mere employment.  Stockholm syndrome, almost, where once you work for a violent, selfish, evil man for long enough you eventually come to love him despite the fact that he would kill you for any reason at all and not think twice about it.

My parents always told me that while I might make a good general I would never make it through the military because I don't have it in me to obey.  I think being the henchman of a drug lord is pretty much the same thing.

Though clearly it works for an awful lot of people, following orders just isn't my thing.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Youtoo, 2

In reading posts on social media with the #metoo tag I saw some sad and disturbing things.  Some of those things were in the primary posts themselves of course, but some of the sadness was men charging into threads that were started so women could relate stories of abuse and saying awful things.  Some of these men decided to start a debate about the exact difference between sexual assault and sexual harassment.  One decided to talk about how he was groped a couple times and he liked it.

It doesn't fucking matter if you liked it when you got groped.  It matters if the women in question liked it, and if people should stop groping people without being sure that they want it.  (Hint:  Yes, you really should make sure people want to be groped before groping them.)

This past Saturday I was dancing in a club downtown.  A bunch of friends were with me and one of them, a man of similar size to me, danced all sexy with me and at groped at my crotch a couple of times.  I was dancing sexy right back at him, so the groping wasn't out of the blue but it was unexpected.

I didn't mind.  In fact, I was amused.

But even though a person randomly groping me (who I am not sexually interested in) didn't bother me that doesn't mean it shouldn't bother other people!  I am a large man.  I am stronger than him, and could make him get off me if it came to that.  I don't think there is any chance it would come to that because the guy in question is a reasonable sort of person but just knowing that I *could*, if I had to, completely changes how the interaction feels.

It is also different when I don't think the person in question actually has any intention of pursuing more sexual interaction.  Knowing what he wanted and the limits of what he was interested in changes the situation drastically.  It also matters that we were in a public space around lots of other people, as that can add a layer of safety.

Afterwards The Flautist asked me if I had ever had a sexual interaction that was scary or felt like assault.  I honestly answered no - I have only ever turned down sex a couple times and it was never of the type where I was shoving someone off of me.  I just used my words and they were respected.  (Being big generally means your words get respected, so this isn't such a surprise.)  Then she asked if anything I had experienced would probably be taken as sexual assault if I were a different person.  That is an important question because there are plenty of things that could happen to me that I would just brush off where other people might be traumatized for any number of reasons.

I guess the groping in the bar would qualify.  There are a lot of people who would be quite upset or at least unimpressed with such a thing.  I suspect that the guy that groped me wouldn't have done so to a woman or to many other people but he figured I would be fine with it, and he figured rightly in this case.

So yeah, I bet there are a lot of men out there who have been groped but it didn't really do much to them.  That doesn't matter.  Their privilege, size, strength, and other factors can easily change something they don't mind into someone else's horror story.  They should not assume that their feelings are universal because who they are and how they fit into society drastically changes the situation, even if it seems superficially similar.

I got groped.  It made me laugh and I was not bothered.  But that doesn't mean that other people aren't justified in being upset by being groped, and I sure as hell shouldn't use my experience as a weapon to try to trivialize the hurt they feel.

When someone talks about how they have cancer, for example, everyone knows that you shouldn't step in and say "hah, cancer, what a joke.  I lived through cancer!"  Even if you did, and even if it wasn't that bad, shut the hell up.  You also shouldn't say "Well, *your* kind of cancer isn't that bad.  Other people have it much worse, you know."  Even if that is true, shut the hell up.

The same goes for sexual assault.  Don't minimize other people's suffering, and don't try to shut down their conversation because it makes you feel uncomfortable.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Just watching

This past week I got an invitation to an event the likes of which I have never seen.  I was invited to attend an all woman orgy - strictly as an observer.  Voyeurism was a deliberate part of the event, and I was informed that I could attend but would absolutely not be taking part.

This is my life now, I guess...?

I wasn't at all sure what I should do.  Much like my post about burlesque a couple weeks ago, I thought that watching a sexy show but not being able to participate wouldn't be much fun.  Lots of people really enjoy that sort of thing but so far in my life it really hasn't been my thing.  I don't ask people for strip teases because I don't want to be teased, I just want to touch and grab and GO.

I also had another far more mainstream event I could attend.  I could get a dance lesson and go dance with a bunch of people, some of whom I know.  That had some appeal too.

But if I went to the dance I knew how it will go.  I would dance, that will be fine, and I would always wonder what would have happened if I had chosen differently.  I am not likely to receive a great number of invites to orgies where I am expected to be a voyeur only and although I *thought* it won't do much for me I wasn't completely sure. 

You only learn new things about yourself if you push yourself to try new things, and there are some things I have done in recent years that I definitely never would have thought I would enjoy.

Plus I can always spend my time telling people about how I went to an orgy for science, and just saying that makes me smile.

I went to the orgy.

For science.

I liked the people I met there.  We had a bunch of stuff in common and I enjoyed their company.  On the other hand the orgy itself was ... meh.  Often boring, if I am being completely blunt.  I think the people involved had a good time and I am not knocking them at all.  The whole voyeur thing just didn't work for me.

At points I got introspective and thought how funny it was that there were two extremely attractive women 69ing each other not two meters away from me and I was staring off into space thinking about playing video games. 

Time is the key.  If someone said I could watch a all woman orgy for five minutes, jerk off and have an orgasm, and then get on with my day I would be perfectly happy about that.  It would be much like porn.

But if they ask me to watch said orgy for two hours then it would be quite boring for most of it, in the same way that I wouldn't watch porn for two hours. 

Maybe if it was a distraction off to the side it would work.  For example, if I was at a board game night and the orgy was happening on the other side of the room I could focus on my game and be entertained whenever the board wasn't grabbing my attention.

In any case now I know new things about myself.  Sex is the best, group sex is the best of the best, and watching other people do it while I just sit there is ... not the worst, really, but it ranks below sitting at home playing video games at the very least.

Science!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Youtoo

I have seen a lot of women posting on social media with the #metoo tag.  They are talking about their experiences with sexual harassment and sexual assault, and the sheer number of them that I know who are sharing their stories is hard to deal with.  It is made far worse by the fact that so many have terrible stories to tell who aren't telling them for one reason or another - the stories I have seen are just the beginning.  Of course there are men (and people who are neither men nor women) posting these stories too, but the ones that I know whose #metoo posts have affected me are women, so that is the thing I will focus on.

Awareness is great and useful but the real key is a commitment to change and that has to happen from men or little will change since men are the great majority of the offenders.  We have to step up and make it clear that we believe these stories, that we want the world to be different and better, and that we will take the steps we can to change it.

So I will join my voice to the chorus and say that I want a world where women are not sexually harassed and assaulted, and that I believe them when they say they are.  It is not their fault, it is the fault of those harassing and assaulting them.

I will refuse to make excuses for predatory behaviour because the predator has other traits I admire.  Just because I like what you make does not mean you are not doing something evil.

I will call out catcalling and other harassment.  I will not let it slip by.  I will not ignore misogyny when I see it, and I will examine my actions and thoughts for internalized misogyny to do my best to catch myself.

I will work hard to educate people, particularly young boys, to try to show them a better way to be so that they may do less harm than the generation before them.

When I screw up I will own it, apologize for it, and not do it again.  I will not ask women do the emotional labour of coping with my apology or atonement.

I wish the world was a better place and these stories were not true.  But they are true, and we must work to make there be less of them.  I will work to recognize the mistakes of my past and do what I can do nudge the world toward a better future where people don't need to take to social media by the millions to post their stories of trauma and heartache just to get people to believe that there is a problem at all.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving this year had a new thing for me.  It has been 15 years that I have been attending Thanksgiving events with Wendy's family and this year I did that again.  But I also went to The Flautist's family Thanksgiving dinner too.

I don't care about Thanksgiving at all.  I like the usual food that accompanies it but the day itself is utterly meaningless to me.  Most holidays are that way for me, with the possible exception of Christmas since I have so many positive memories associated with it.

There are all kinds of things swirling about in this.  I really like the idea of being a part of the family for someone I am dating but not married to.  Doing this sort of thing makes me feel like I am part of a larger web and also that my relationships that don't include living together are more ... real somehow.  Like there is an added legitimacy to it once you do things like go home for Thanksgiving dinner with a partner.  I don't place all that much importance on that sort of recognition, but it is a thing I can't ignore.  Meeting the family adds a level to a relationship that has impact whether we want it to or not.

The odd thing about that though is that I can't easily return the favour.  My family lives far away and inviting someone for a family get together would usually involve a full week staying up north.  That has the trouble of costing a bunch of money, requiring a serious time investment, and requires everyone to be around each other for a week. 

Inviting partners home for family things has appeal but these logistical issues do make it a tricky affair.  Plus there is always the potential struggle of navigating people's attitudes.  Lots of poly people find that their partners are not invited to family affairs to cater to people's bigotry.  I didn't feel that at all at The Flautist's Thanksgiving because people were welcoming to me, though of course I don't know what is actually going on inside their heads.

If I invited somebody home I don't know exactly how it would go.  I know mostly everyone would be fine with it and most of the rest would be weirded out but polite.  But there is at least one person who would not be okay with it, and I am pretty sure that no discussion on the matter could be fruitful.  I won't hide and I won't lie, but I don't want to have a giant mess during a family get together either.  My instinct is to just charge in and tell everyone to bloody well cope but inviting someone home for a week saying "Want to meet a ton of new people all at once, and oh by the way, this might be full of awkward tension." isn't ideal.

If my family was close by this would have been resolved by this point one way or another but the raw logistics have made it not a thing so far.  Makes me wonder how long it will be before I have to really sit down and navigate the challenge of family vs. living outside the norm.

The end of 100

I just finished binge watching The 100 Season 4.  (Massive spoilers ahead).  While I was watching it was entirely clear to me that the show was ending.  The last few episodes saw main characters being killed off at a rate that would make George RR Martin proud.  All the plotlines were resolving themselves.  Romances were coming to fruition.  They even set up an ironic twist to how all the characters who were going to survive would manage to make it.

Then in a massive explosion filled final few minutes nearly the entire population of the earth was wiped out, the most important character in the series died saving her closest friends, and the story finished on a hopeful note despite all the tragedy.

And then somebody said "Oh shit!  We have enough of an audience to keep cranking this stuff out for more money.  Quick, find some way to have the main hero not die, and make up some ridiculous stuff to have a new season of the show!"

This show has had major changes in it every season, so massive shifts at the end of a season are the norm.  Season 1 was Teenagers vs. The Wild.  Season 2 was Teenagers vs. High Tech Underground Dwellers.  Season 3 was Teenagers vs. Evil A.I.  Season 4 was Teenagers vs. Wall of Fire.  Each time the scope of the show shifted drastically and the characters' struggles were quite different.  I liked that!  It kept things fresh and new and while the later seasons were not nearly as tightly written as the first one I still enjoyed them.

But this is a whole different level.  The story was done, finished.  The ending felt right to me.

And here's the thing:  I don't object to more seasons categorically.  I enjoy the show, I want more of it.  It is just that if you set up heroic deaths for characters and then have them shrug those off, and if you set up Total Apocalypse and then just fast forward past it, the big things you have set up fall completely flat.

A lot of the big emotional moments in this show, like any show, don't have world shattering stakes.  When Finn dies in season 1 it is a big deal and the audience feels it despite the fact that it is just one person.  You don't need an apocalypse to make us care, so if you use one you really ought to let it have the proper impact.  What I am saying is, you don't need a wall of fire a kilometer tall that stretches from horizon to horizon to get me involved, but if you conjure up said wall of fire then you had damn well better let it burninate the countryside.

If I had just forgotten to watch the last four minutes of the show everything would have been fine!  I would have been quite happy with the resolution and gone away thinking that finally somebody had the guts to end a show correctly.  Faugh.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Getting the guns out

Recently there was a mass shooting in Las Vegas.  58 people died and hundreds were injured by a single person with a huge collection of guns.  Gun control has been a huge topic on the internet as a result, and stocks in gun companies have shot up on the assumption that people will buy guns trying to get ahead of possible gun control laws.

The debate is a mess.  Talking about it is tough because we get bogged down in details, when what most people want is for action to be taken that will change the status quo.  For example, people will call for bans on assault rifles, not realizing that 'assault rifle' is not a well defined thing.  What differentiates a semi automatic rifle from another one that is classed as an assault rifle but which is pretty much equally dangerous?  Random details in the gun laws, that is the only practical difference.  Ban assault rifles and gun manufacturers will just make new guns that are outside the definition of assault rifle and you are back to where you started.

It is true that 'ban all assault rifles' is nearly worthless as policy, but the trick is that gun regulations in general aren't particularly effective as policy.  25% of Canadian households have guns, and 38% of American ones do, and yet the mass shooting rate in the US is somewhere between 4 and 6 times higher, depending on how you count it.  Most shootings don't include really powerful, large, military grade weapons either.  The difference is less in the number of guns or who owns them, and more in the culture.

You can't legislate away the toxic masculinity that goes along with gun fetishization.  You can't write a law that tells people that going out in a hail of bullets is pathetic rather than brave.  You can try to write laws to get the most dangerous of the guns out of people's hands, but those are only going to be modestly effective, especially in a country like the US where there are already more guns than people.

What is actually necessary is a change in thinking.

The US needs it especially, but the rest of the world could use a dose of venerating nonviolence.  The culture of honour that demands that you be able to defend yourself violently from attackers is incredibly destructive and it leads to all kinds of deaths, both deliberate and accidental.

We will get modest results at best from legislating away guns.  We should still do it, but that isn't actually the thing that needs changing most urgently.  The real culprit is the belief that having guns and using them makes you a big shot, powerful, worthy of respect.

"Ban assault rifles" is not useful policy.  This is true.  But the appropriate response to such a statement isn't "Bah, we can't define this correctly, so we shouldn't bother."

The appropriate response is "Guns are a problem, so I am going to get rid of my guns, and so should everyone else."

When people minds have changed, and guns are seen as the problem rather than the solution, then the laws will change with them pretty nearly effortlessly.

As to how to convince the gun enthusiasts to come around en masse and advocate for a gun free society... I don't have a lot of good answers for that.  I wish I did.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Sleep is dangerous

Yesterday I was looking at a picture of myself from my wedding day.  The difference in my appearance from then to now was momentarily shocking.  The usual things have changed - my hairline has receded a lot, my hair has gone from solid brown to salt and pepper, and I have a few extra lines on my face.  Like a lot of people I guess these changes snuck up on me, and only seeing an example of myself before I really had any signs of aging made it hit home.

Those things don't bother me though.  If a beautician fairy showed up and offered to give me back hair and make it brown again I wouldn't take them up on it.  This is me now.  Those changes are the marks of my life, the way my body has become different in response to all the things I have done and experienced.  That younger version of me isn't really me anymore.  (If the fairy offered to get rid of my acne, I would take that in a *second*.  Other things, probably not.)

The thing I really notice though is how slowly I heal.  Near the end of August I slept oddly on my hand and it has been messed up ever since.  In the time span from then to now I have done lots of really heavy physical labour, worked out to the point of failure and exhaustion many times, paddled a canoe for hours and tossed a canoe up on my shoulders, and any number of other things that might hurt me.  But no, the injury that continues to plague me is a sore wrist I got from sleeping wrong.

In years gone past this wouldn't have stuck with me like this.  A silly injury like that would have just faded away in no time.  But now it takes me a long time to get past it and even though it has been a month and a half the healing isn't done.  I am nearly there, I think, but I can still feel it when I stretch my hand around to test its boundaries; the injury isn't gone yet.

It makes me wonder about my workout regimen, and how it will affect me long term.  Being in shape is a good way to avoid injuries, but lifting heavy weights and really pushing myself to greater feats of strength is likely to cause injuries instead.

Anyone that knows me well probably assumes that I am not the least interested it taking it easy in my workouts and just maintaining what I have.  That assumption is correct.  I am going to push myself to get bigger, stronger, and more, or I am going to not bother.  That isn't what a doctor would advise I expect, but I know how I am.

I suppose I ought to be thinking about this whole healing thing carefully though.  Injuries I would have laughed off fifteen years ago are likely to be a lot more of a problem now, and trying to avoid them makes sense.

If only I was the sort of person who was willing or interested in doing that.

Which, to be sure, I am not.  I am kind of stupid that way.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Pushing and Pulling

One of the standard ways to go about organizing your weight lifting is Push, Pull, Legs.  That is, you operate on a 3 day cycle where you focus on exercises that involve pushing with your arms, pulling with your arms, and then leg exercises of all sorts.  For my entire eighteen month workout career I have been trying to do all of my upper body exercises in a single day and it eventually became a problem.  As my weights went up the amount of time it took to do everything kept increasing and my state when I was done kept deteriorating.

Over the past little while I would finish my upper body day in about 90 minutes and just collapse in front of my computer for an hour.  I was stunned, unable to do much of anything.  My muscles were strong enough to handle the new weights, but the amount of energy I was outputting had become a problem.

I decided to split up my exercises into two rough Push / Pull groups and see if I could get them done faster and feel better afterwards.  When the weights were smaller I could get the whole routine done in an hour so I assumed breaking it up like this would mean I could do my 90 minute workout in two 30 minute chunks over two days.  Heck, with doing half of the work on any given day I felt like maybe my weights or reps would go up.

It turns out I can't, and they didn't.  I get through it in 30 minutes no problem but I can't do the same number of reps I was before.  Even though I am doing half the work in a given workout I am compressing my exercises much closer together and this is a problem.  I do circuit style training where I do a single set of every exercise and then do another single set, so my sets of dips, for example, would be about 30 minutes apart.  Now that I am doing dips 3 times in 30 minutes my dips sets are only 10 minutes apart and I just can't keep up my rep numbers.

I certainly found that the 30 minute workouts leave me feeling more energized.  Instead of feeling like I need to just stand there like a zombie for an hour I need only a few minutes and I can get back into whatever it was I was doing before. 

I find it funny that I am so bad at predicting my body's limits.  I would have thought that after all these years I would have developed some kind of decent ability to know what tires me out and how, but apparently even something simple like figuring out whether splitting out my pushes and pulls will tire me out more or less is beyond my ability to know.

I suppose it is an opportunity to know myself better.  I could just spend a full 90 minutes doing my pushes and see where my reps numbers are at, obviously with a huge amount of resting in between each set.  Then try it at 45 minutes for the full workout.

Time to do some more science.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Take most of it off

Yesterday I went to a burlesque show.  I think most people would assume it would be the sort of thing I would like.  I like sex, I like naked people, and this show was about women taking off most of their clothes and singing raunchy songs.

It didn't do it for me.

This has nothing to do with the performers.  I think they did a good job.  It has nothing to do with them, and everything to do with me.  The first burlesque show I saw many years ago was the same thing - I went to see Spins and she did a fantastic performance that I enjoyed because it showcased her talent and athleticism.  But the rest was a total bore in that it did nothing for me though again the performers seemed to do a fine job doing a thing I just don't care about.

I think the problem here is my dual nature again.  Director is pretty much asexual, and just doesn't care about naked people.  He likes the theory of nudity and the destruction of social norms surrounding clothes but the sexiness of the show slides right off.  Director can admire the skill of the performers or the structure of the show but the sex just fails to sell.

Passion loves sex.  But Passion has no interest whatsoever in sitting passively while a sexy show occurs.  If I could masturbate, or have sex with somebody else while the show was going, or have sex with the performers, any of these would make it all work quite well.  But to just sit there?  Fuck that noise.  No interest.  Call me when it gets exciting.

The problem is that one of the two has to be in charge.  Director gets nothing out of the show, but Passion isn't interested, and when that happens Director ends up driving.  I end up watching the show disinterestedly, clapping at the points I know I am supposed to, but mostly watching a show that is trying to do one thing simply doesn't work on me.  I end up being Director, coldly examining the show, bored.

I suppose it doesn't help that the two times I have seen burlesque the volume was cranked up *way* too high for me and I found it quite unpleasant.  I often cringed at a peak of noise and it felt almost like physical pain.  I am way more sensitive to noise than most people I guess, and this certainly made the experience a poorer one.  I doubt though that a quiet show would have worked for me but it would have been less jarring.

Perhaps this also explains why I have never had interest in stripteases.  I don't like teases.  Director doesn't get it, and Passion has no fucking time for just sitting there.  He wants to DO, not observe.

Long term I guess it is good to know what I want.  I am one of those people who loves sex, but isn't interested in vaguely sexy things, or sexy teasing, or sexy shows.  I want sex, itself, in all its meaty goodness.  Or not.  But the halfway in between thing really isn't my cup of tea.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

No trust

Awhile ago Sthenno came over to my place and asked me an odd question.  By odd I mean the sort of thing normal people consider odd, but it was completely normal for the two of us.  He asked me if I experience gratitude or trust.

I said no.

You might suddenly be wondering how I get by in the world without trust, so I will clarify.  Obviously there are people in the world who I think do things that align with my values, and who I believe will act in my best interests, as long as those don't interfere with their best interests too much.  When I say trust, what I mean is that I think these things about them.  I generally think they have sound judgement and their weighting functions for decision making are ones that don't worry me.

But most people have something else that they feel when they trust someone that I clearly don't feel.  When I think about people going to war who trust their leaders that murdering other people is a good idea, I cannot fathom it.  When religious people believe their clergy who say contradictory or absurd things, it strikes me as preposterous.  They are clearly feeling something they call trust and it is an emotion I either don't have, or have so little of that I might as well not have it.

I think Sthenno is even more extreme in this way than I am.  I have almost no experience of trust, but he has basically zero.  To me trust is sort of like saying "I believe X".  You only say it when it is bloody obvious X is false but you have decided to pretend it is true anyway.  People don't say "I believe in gravity" because we know gravity is true.  They say it about things that we have no reason to believe in, like God, or feng shui, or the Loch Ness Monster.  Trust is similar.  It is often like saying that you believe in a person or what that person says, even when they have not given sufficient reason for you to do so.  There is a big emotional thing there that most people experience but which is mostly foreign to me.

Gratitude is a similar sort of thing.  I think this may actually have a lot to do with my issues surrounding gifts and debt.  It seems plausible that because I don't experience gratitude, and possibly because I don't experience trust, I view many exchanges through an economic lens.  When people do nice things for me I notice and I appreciate it, but when other people talk about gratitude it becomes glaringly obvious to me that there is something they are experiencing that is just not part of my makeup.  When people express gratitude I am often standing there, trying to do whatever is socially mandated, while completely not getting it at all.

If someone says they have gratitude for the great weather, I find that totally baffling.  The weather just happens.  That emotional response is weird to me.  Same with gifts, really.  I can appreciate a gift, but it is clear people are expecting a emotional reaction from me that they never get.  I pretend to have it in order to make social situations work but I have never quite gotten it.

I was bad at this as a kid because I didn't have the reactions most people did and I hadn't yet worked out how to fake it or dodge it.  As an adult I still find this part of the world confusing and bizarre but I have all my systems in place to do the thing that makes people calm, and which keeps them thinking that I am having the internal experience they expect me to.

I do look forward to getting old though, in particular the part where everyone just gives up on me ever changing and accepts that I am cantankerous and bizarre.  Then I can stop doing the stuff that gets me by these situations and just be me and they can all sigh and talk about how there is no point in trying to change me, and they might as well just cope with it until I die.

There are many things about getting old that suck, but I am looking forward to that part at least.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Too much power

I went on a camping trip this weekend with Wendy's lab group.  All in all it was fantastic, with us lucking into some of the best weather you could hope for.  The downpour even waited until 15 minutes after we were in our cars heading home.  One of the most amusing parts of it was this:


I snapped my paddle with the intense force of my paddling.  RAWR!

(Let us not speak of the fact that the paddle was obviously old, grey, and the varnish was all falling off in flakes.  Surely that has little to do with it.)

Thankfully the place that rented us the gear gave us several extra paddles.  Perhaps this is the cost of doing business when you are happy to rent out paddles that are so beat up they are bound to snap under normal use?

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Big man

In the one and a half years since I started lifting weights I have put on about 30 pounds.  Throughout my adult life I always stayed between 165 and 175 pounds depending on how much physical activity I was getting, which generally meant that when I was working and walking a lot my weight was closer to the top of the range just due to muscle mass in my legs, I think.  Recently I weighed myself and I clocked in at 206 which is by far the heaviest I have ever been.  This isn't something I do often - I think I have only weighed myself roughly once every six months since I started lifting.  It is encouraging though, for some odd reason, to know that I have packed that much muscle on.  I keep trying to imagine 30 packages of ground beef stuck to my body and the image of it is absolutely hilarious.

I suspect I will be adding on a lot more meat in the next few months.  Like a lot of men who take up weight lifting I mostly just did upper body work.  I was really wanting to get big arms, more than anything else, and my legs seemed just fine as they were.  However, I recently decided that I should really balance things out more so I started doing squats and other leg exercises consistently.

I figured that I am a pretty strong dude now, so I would need huge amounts of weight.  After all, my benchpress is around 300 pounds now, and squat numbers are usually a lot higher than bench numbers, so surely I must be able to squat a ton of weight.  Right?

Wrong.

I mean, obviously, stupidly wrong.

It turns out if you don't do leg work your legs don't get stronger.  I know, I know, who would have thought?

Anyway I ended up putting 90 pounds on a bar and doing squats with that.  I would have liked to do more but my gym in my building doesn't have a squat rack so I had to toss the weight up over my head, and also that was all the weight available so I couldn't put more on even if I wanted to.  Because the weight wasn't so large I did a ton of reps and my legs *burned*.  I had trouble sitting down on the toilet for two days to such a degree that I had to use my hands to lower myself so I didn't just fall.

It turns out that doing tons of reps on low weight causes soreness that is quite unlike doing heavy weight for only a few reps.  I went back again after three days to do another leg day and ended up having to dial it way back because my legs were in agony after just a few reps.  My ability to recover from my high rep leg workout is just miserable compared to my ability to recover from normal lifting, it would seem.

At any rate I intend on doing a lot of work with lower weights in my home gym until I am in better shape.  Once I really can't do anything with what I have here I will need to get a proper gym membership but clearly I have some work to do before that is necessary.

This does make me wonder how heavy I am going to be six months from now.  I expect my upper body to continue to pack on weight slowly but if I go really hard on my legs I should put on a bunch of weight there too.  It seems quite reasonable to imagine I might add on ten pounds on top and ten pounds on the bottom and end up at 225 by the middle of winter, and somehow that seems absurd to me.  In my head weighing 225 pounds is massive, and it doesn't feel like it is the sort of thing that applies to me, and yet it also seems like a completely reasonable goal.

It is as though the numbers corresponding to my weight both represent me, and are also completely divorced from my idea of who I am.  It is an odd thing for someone who was so consistent in terms of weight for so many years.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Dissatisfied

I read an article yesterday about why people cheat on each other in relationships.  Specifically it tried to explain why people who claim they are happy in their relationships end up cheating.

It is the sort of thing that is simultaneously something I want people to seriously think about and also makes me laugh out loud at how absurd it is.

Really?  You wonder how people are attracted to more than one person, and how they might want to act on that attraction?  Even if their current official partner is a good person and makes them happy?

Years ago I would have read along with this sort of thing, nodding at how it questioned our societal standard of putting your partner on a pedestal and pretending they are the only thing you will ever want ever again.  Before I was polyamorous I will still realistic!  Of course most people will be attracted to lots of people.  They will have friends they want to hop into bed with, lust after people on the street or on porn sites, and sometimes find themselves falling in love by accident.

But these days it all strikes me as preposterous.  Are people still sitting around pretending that it is abnormal to be attracted to more than one person?  Is anyone really still thinking that everyone in our lives offers the same experience, so that once you have one person you care about there isn't any reason at all to meet other people?

"If this were a good relationship, I wouldn't want anyone else" is a pile of nonsense.  There are friends I want to go paintballing with, and friends I want to play board games with.  There are people who I would happily take camping so we can get drunk around the fire and yell about things, and people who I would definitely leave in town.

As time goes by my tolerance for this kind of foolishness has drained away.  Have whatever relationship rules you want, exclusive or not, that is your business.  But this idea that we should all be astonished when someone who has a good relationship has other attractions needs to die in a fire.

No matter what your relationship rules are you need to know that your partner can't be your everything, and presuming that they will be is a recipe for misery.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Ringless

I have stopped wearing my wedding ring.  (Don't panic.)

There are all kinds of reasons for this that people would expect; perhaps my marriage is a mess, I am trying to have a sneaky affair, or I am worried about sports related injuries.  None of the above are correct.  Instead it is something extremely mundane.  I took my ring off to do my weight lifting the other day and took a look at my finger and realized that the skin under my ring on the front of my hand my finger was kind of flaky and crunchy and looked distinctly wrong.  It isn't any sort of crisis but I decided I should leave the ring off until it fixes itself, and since the ring has been a constant resident for the past 12 years that might take awhile.  Who knows how long it has been like this!

It feels WEIRD.

I am constantly touching the base of my finger and being surprised by what I don't feel.  I go to rotate the ring as a way to fidget and nothing is there to play with.  My hand just feels constantly, subtly wrong.  It is like biting your mouth or tongue by accident; you aren't aware of the shape of your mouth until something changes and than you suddenly can't be aware of anything else.

It is kind of funny though because I have been thinking about taking off my ring for a couple years now.  I like my spouse and my marriage, but the institution of marriage itself has all kinds of issues that trouble me.  I dislike the history of patriarchy that is embedded in it.  I grumble at the assumption that a marriage's success is based on somebody dying rather than the joy that it brings while it lasts.

Becoming polyamorous brought new issues to the fore.  I am wearing an obvious symbol of one particular relationship but not symbols of any other relationships.  I have chosen to announce to the world one thing through my bodily decoration, and I don't feel like this is the thing I *should* be announcing, if I can only pick one thing.  I don't want people to think I am "taken" because I am not, and I don't want to pile on additional veneration of my domestic, legally binding partnership because it doesn't need any help being seen as the most important thing.

I don't like jewellery in general, and I don't like my wedding ring in particular.  I like my marriage, and initially I was happy to have a simple symbol of it, but that glow has faded.  I have changed, and my views on my golden symbol have shifted too.

It isn't as though I have some seething, festering hatred for my wedding band - I have plenty of more important things to seethe at.  However, I do feel like it is not the right thing.  It is a symbol, and the point of symbols is to tell other people about me.  But much of what people conclude when they see the symbol is incorrect.  When I look at my wedding ring now it it a thing that just isn't quite right anymore.

There is a cost to taking it off.  People make assumptions when they see a finger that obviously had a wedding band on it for a long time but is now bare, and those assumptions are not likely to be correct.  There is also the real concern that people will assume that this change reflects a negative change in my marriage and I don't like that conclusion.  It does reflect a change in my marriage to some extent, but that change is a good thing, not a bad thing.  However, I can see people who are skeptical of polyamory seeing this as a sign that everything is falling to bits.

I suspect Wendy wears her band for another reason that was never really mine - to prevent harassment.  It is a preemptive strike, a way to signal to men that they ought not to hit on her.  "Sorry, I have a boyfriend" should not be the best way to get men to leave a woman alone, but sadly it usually is, and a wedding ring is pretty much that phrase in jewellery form.

Being hit on by people I don't want to be involved with has never been a struggle for me, for a variety of reasons...

The more I look at my hands, newly not decorated, the more this seems like the right thing.  I don't need to make a decision yet, not until I lose the plausible deniability of my finger healing up, but the more I don't wear the ring the more I lean towards putting it away forever.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Home Alone

I ran into an article today on the topic of letting children ride public transit alone.  It talks about a man in Vancouver who let his four children of ages 7, 8, 9, 11 ride the bus to school without adult supervision.  A seven year old on the bus alone seems possible depending on the seven year old, but in the company of an 11 year old I feel it is perfectly reasonable considering he spent considerable time training them to do this.

The government did not like this however and forbade it.  Once his eldest child reaches 12 they can then supervise the younger ones, and while that seems older than the limit I would choose it doesn't seem absurd.

But the article also talked about the rules here in Ontario and those made me choke a little.  Apparently here children cannot legally be left alone until age 16.

16!  The same age at which they can legally hop behind the wheel of a car and start driving.  Apparently sitting at home alone for a short period is equivalent in terms of responsibility to being the operator of a powerful and potentially dangerous piece of machinery.  It boggles my mind.

It is especially galling because nobody obeys that law.  Children are expected to arrive at Pinkie Pie's school by themselves - while parents are certainly welcome to drop them off, it is obvious to anyone at the school that nearly all of them arrive on their own.  So even though by law the great majority of the parents of the children in the school are in violation, and even though the people in the school are undoubtedly aware of it, nothing happens.

I *hate* laws like that.

Having laws on the books that are stupid and which are not enforced just leaves people in a terrible state where they risk something horrible happening to their family if they do what basically everyone does, and when everyone is doing the right thing it is especially crappy.  Obey the law, do a disservice to your children.  Disobey the law, be worried that they will take your children away.

Even if nobody actually obeys the law and it never gets enforced its mere existence is a problem.  I think people will generally have a lot more respect for laws and those who enforce them if laws themselves are consistently enforced.  When people know that the rules are fair, reasonable, and consistently enforced they have more reason to think that they themselves should play by the rules.

When it is clear that laws are arbitrary, destructive, and ignored, then it fosters the idea that the legal system should be ignored.

And if that law should happen to be enforced, as in my case, or the case of nearly all parents, it would be a disaster.  Should this happen, it won't occur to people with money, and influence, and access to lawyers.  It will happen to someone who is poor and powerless.

That is what gets me.  Not that anyone is going to take my kid away, that won't happen.  But that somebody might decide to do this to someone who doesn't know how to fight back or cannot do so.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

A disreputable sort

Today I ran to Pinkie Pie's school.  It is about a twenty minute walk but I sprinted most of the way in order to make a delivery - a lunch that was discovered in the kitchen five minutes after Pinkie Pie had already gone to school.  It was my fault as I had failed to put it in her backpack so off I ran to deliver it.  Children looked at me askance as I ran down the street, everyone's gaze flickering to my bare feet and then back to my face again.

Because of course I was running in bare feet.  Putting on socks would have taken time, and sandals are crap for running.

However, unbeknownst to me Pinkie Pie had taken an alternate route to school to meet a friend on the way and I got there far before she did.  I wasn't terribly surprised to find that I got there first so I sat on a bench in front of the school and waited.

And waited.

During my wait the traffic on the street in front of me came to a stop and a man on a motorcycle began questioning me.  He demanded to know why I was barefoot, and I answered that I am often barefoot.  Then he demanded to know why I was at the school.  He was clearly agitated, and at first I couldn't figure out what he was about, at least partly because our conversation was impeded by traffic noise and him wearing a helmet.

Soon though it became clear what his problem was - he was convinced I was some sort of pedophile.  Because a male, near children?  It couldn't be that I was delivering a lunch, or meeting a teacher, or making inquiries about my children.  No, it must be that I am a violent criminal deviant.

Now, of course he would have given a pass to a well dressed man.  Those types of people aren't to be suspected of things.  But to break the cultural norm against wearing shoes, that means you must be twisted and evil.  Perhaps even worse, you might be poor!

Before I had to make the choice between politely telling him the truth, giving him the finger, or telling him to bring the fucking noise, traffic began moving again and he decided that stopping the street completely to yell at a stranger on the sidewalk was not the thing to do and he sped off.  He hesitated though, clearly angry that he didn't have the time to interrogate me properly for the suspicious activity of sitting on a public bench while dressed in a way he wasn't used to.

Finally Pinkie Pie showed up about fifteen minutes later.  She was surprised to see me, but glad that the lunch had been delivered.

This kind of crap really grinds my gears.  I hate that people feel entitled to a position of authority on the basis of another person's presumed poverty, and the sexist bullshit of thinking that a male couldn't possibly have anything legitimate to do with a school twists it into something even worse.  I have encountered this before, particularly when I took Pinkie Pie to the park when she was small.  When she was playing away from me and our relationship wasn't clear I would often get death stares from people who clearly concluded that a male near children must have nefarious purposes.

I can't help but wonder how these interactions would have gone if I wasn't large and strong.  How bad might it be to add physical intimidation into the mix?  I at least have the advantage that even if people feel entitled to be assholes to me, they don't try to push me around with brute force.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

School again

Pinkie Pie is back to school this week.  It is a new school for her as she has moved up to grade 6, and that came along with all the attendant fears and worries.

Fears and worries for her, mind, not me.

She was concerned about finding classes and making friends and all the normal sorts of things that kids worry about.  I tried to help her by talking about how everyone at school would feel this way because all the kids were entering a new place with new rules and they all would need help.  I suggested that if she was thinking of a question she should ask it because probably at least one other classmate had the same question but just hadn't asked it yet.

I don't know if I helped, but that was the tactic I tried!

It is a strange sort of thing for me to get back into the school routine too.  I don't go to the school, of course, but I do suddenly have a dramatically different sort of day ahead of me.  I have been away from home for half of the summer and when I wasn't away from home I had all kinds of bizarre schedules depending on the day in question.

Now I am squarely back into my usual routine of being free from 9 until 3:30 and otherwise busy.  I can plan things!

The first couple days have been really strange.  It is like I am stuck in a loop almost, just passing time instead of getting things done.  I think it isn't just a new schedule to be back at school, it is almost like I need a completely new mindset.  Instead of just taking whatever time I can find to do my own stuff, I need to schedule my work in advance.  I mostly just spent the first two days goofing off, watching the new season of Narcos and playing way too much Civilization 6.  Somehow in my head the switch to go to school time instead of vacation time hasn't tripped yet.

The next couple days I have tons of work to do, so hopefully that will get me back into the groove of getting real things crossed off of the list instead of just treading water.  There are things I just can't procrastinate about forever because they rely on other people... or the fact that winter is coming.

On that note I also really need to finish off the latest season of Game of Thrones.  I can't decide if doing so is accomplishing important work or if it is just another way to avoid steam cleaning my carpet.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Not fancy enough

This week I was in an Italian restaurant for a birthday dinner.  The person whose birthday it was seemed to quite enjoy the experience, and so did everyone else at the table as far as I could tell.  Me ... not as much.

The trouble was that it was trying hard to be a fancy, exclusive restaurant.  This is accomplished in a variety of ways including high prices, frustrating menu design, attitude of the staff, decoration, and more.

I hate fancy and exclusive just makes me sad.  Generally exclusive is meant as a compliment, another way of saying superior.  But when you look at the root of exclusive you should note that it comes from exclusion.  A thing is exclusive when people are kept out.  In this case, people like me.

The core of it is always price.  I looked at the cost of food in this place and was appalled.  I certainly don't mind if other people want to spend one hundred and twenty dollars on a steak, but the idea of doing so myself makes my head spin.  Just being in that place puts me in a position I hate - I am reliant on other people to carry me, to pay for me.  It underlines the power difference between me and others, even if I am not paying, because I can't possibly afford to eat at such a place and so if someone else pays it means they are going to throw money at me, but not in such a way that I get to have control over how that money is spent.  When I am in a place where I might go normally having someone else pay isn't an issue, but I hate that sense of obligation that comes with knowing that someone else is paying a bill for me that I would never consider paying if I had a choice.  It is all very awkward.

There were lots of small things though, like the menu design.  I don't speak Italian, though certainly I can puzzle out the great majority of a menu written in Italian.  But without an English description I have to resort to bothering the wait staff to translate a ton of the menu which is annoying and frustrating, or simply guess and hope.  I also am not familiar with the categories of food, which means I don't know what things will actually be enough food for me and which will not.  The restaurant clearly assumes a body of knowledge I do not possess, largely because I don't have the money to eat at expensive Italian restaurants.

I should say that I don't object to languages other than English!  It is often important to make sure that non English speakers have resources to understand things, and having the names of food in their original languages is actually a plus.  But fancy Italian restaurants aren't refusing to have English on the menus as an attempt at outreach to hard done by Italians - they are doing it to seem fancy and exclusive.

And in this case the people they are trying to exclude are people like me.  People who don't have the money to be familiar with this sort of thing, people who don't wear suits or fancy dresses, people who find the 'fancy restaurant' style of serving to be strange and offputting.  Restaurants like this focus hard on things that make me feel powerless, uninformed, and out of place.

There are plenty of places where things are not designed well for me but I get why they are designed that way.  Maybe it is for 'the average person' who is smaller than me, or maybe for someone with a different knowledge set.  That is a challenge, but not an affront.  But when they make a clear point of doing things just to make it harder and less comfortable for me to create an aura of exclusivity, when they do this deliberately, it makes me sad.

I grew up somewhere between working class and middle class, and that is where I am comfortable.  I am glad that Pinkie Pie is getting to experience these things as she grows up, because I hope that she will find a greater variety of places comfortable when she gets to my age.  Perhaps she will even have the money to make those choices herself.