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?


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


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


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.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The speech that should not be free

 Today I am going to get myself in trouble.  Specifically I am going to talk about free speech, and in the context of recent events that is a messy and charged topic.  So here goes.

The defining principle behind free speech laws and philosophies is the idea that we need to protect people's right to criticize the state and those in power.  Part of that is protecting things that aren't necessarily direct criticism but which push back against cultural norms and powerful institutions and individuals.  We definitely want to make sure people can safely say that the current leader of the nation is an asshat, that we should all be communists, that one religion or the other is nonsense, or that patriarchy is wrong.  Even if I don't agree with all of these sentiments there is a real public good in letting people talk about them without fear of government persecution.

There is some confusion on that last bit, so it should be clearly noted that free speech is NOT consequence free speech.  You may be entitled to say that Islam is evil, but Muslims are free to tell you that Christianity is evil right back.  Atheists might tell you that you are stupid and wrong because all religions are terrible, and perhaps the Jews will laugh at you and tell you that their religion is way too cool for you and you aren't invited.  The government should not censure, harass, or imprison you for saying these things, but other people are free to disagree and there will be social consequences for your statements.  These social conequences are not only acceptable, but desirable.

Just because the basic tenets of free speech are admirable does not mean that you get to say whatever you want without any pushback.

The problem with free speech right now is that it is being invoked as though saying anything you want is the goal.  It isn't.  There is nothing inherently good about spouting off your opinion.  The good comes in the improvement in human circumstances that occurs when people are free to tell those in power that they are stupid and bad.  The goal of free speech is to make the world better for people to live in. 

So when someone wants to speak publicly about their desire to murder everyone of a particular group or to simply oppress them brutally, remove their rights, or throw them out of their homes, we must decide if this sort of speech is something that we ought to protect under the banner of free speech.  The important question is this:  Is protecting this kind of speech helping to make things better for humanity?

Obviously the answer is no.

So while you can make a coherent argument that we must protect the rights of people we hate to speak their mind at the end of it you have to justify it on the basis of improving human life, not just upholding a particular social custom and set of laws.  Laws and customs are created to serve humans, not the other way around.

When a person argues that we ought to be communists I disagree with them.  However, I think the harm that comes to society from letting them speak their mind is not significant, even if you assume there is harm at all.  When a person argues that they should be free to unfurl the swastika and advocate the destruction of queer people, Jews, people of colour, etc, they are imposing a dire and terrible burden on society.  That burden is of course primarily borne by those who are already oppressed which makes it even worse.  There is no demonstrable benefit to society whatsoever in allowing this behaviour so we have a moral imperative to stop it.

While I like the concept of free speech in theory, at the moment it is brought up consistently to defend reprehensible conduct.  This is a huge problem because there are plenty of legitimate cases of speech needing defending and yet if you post on the internet that you are pro free speech in a vacuum many or most people assume you are taking a pro Nazi stance.  Free speech is so consistently being invoked as a way to excuse evil that those two words are being tainted with a dark shroud.

The idea of free speech is to protect the powerless to push back against the institutions that might otherwise oppress them.  It is not an assumption that trying to organize genocide is something that we all ought to protect.  It is there to make human life better, to defend those that cannot defend themselves from those that would hurt them.  Defending that concept, and indeed defaulting to letting people speak when we aren't sure, is a fine and noble thing.

But Nazis chanting that they want to murder all the people who aren't like them are far beyond the pale.  We can exercise judgement to know that they are evil and must be stopped, and we are capable of judging that their speech is not something that should be protected.

That doesn't mean that law and policy surrounding free speech is easy.  On the contrary, it is nearly always thorny and difficult.  Stopping the Nazis without randomly squashing other people is a difficult task from an administrative standpoint, and we don't want overreach.  However, this is a challenge worthy of our efforts, and one we must work hard to succeed at.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The tricky choices

Sometimes people ask about the tricky choices involved in polyamory.  Usually it is about how you avoid catastrophic jealousy when your partner goes out with somebody else, or how you cope with telling your children, or who sleeps where when a lover comes to visit you and a domestic partner.

Mostly this stuff just works itself out incredibly easily for me.  I have had a couple of moments where I felt jealousy, but it was easily worked out with an honest conversation.  I just tell my kid all the things that I would if I were single and dating people, and figuring out who sleeps where has never really been a problem.  Many of the things people think would be an issue are just easy, in large part because of a paradigm shift.  Once you get away from the norms of behaviour that mononormativity suggests the answers fall out without much effort most of the time.  Also these issues are one offs, usually, and once I have solved them I can just walk away.

One thing I have struggled with recently is figuring out how to deal with two long distance relationships at once in a single city.  Nothing bad has happened, but there has been a lot of thought spinning through my head at times trying to sort out what the right thing to do is.

It started with the simple decision of whether or not to pursue anything in the first place.  I have been dating The Flautist for a year and she lives in KW.  I met someone new and exciting who also lives in KW, and we did a lot of chatting for a few weeks.  That was great, but it left me trying to figure out if I should actually pursue a relationship.

The trick is that there is no neutral option.  If I refuse to follow my attractions I will feel cruddy about it, but I think The Flautist would too.  She wouldn't want to be the reason that I don't pursue other people.  But if I do pursue it, then I risk being in a position where I pit two lovers directly against one another in terms of the time I can spend with them.  It isn't like two people in the same city as me; none of us is able to travel between the two cities constantly.  I can ratchet up my time in KW a bit but there are serious practical limits.  Any realistic assessment will conclude that the time I have there will have to be divided up to some extent, and this means both people will end up feeling time pressure from each other.

And as anyone that knows me well is certainly aware, when faced with no neutral option I will go for broke and pursue the Whee! option.  And I did, and now the Danthropologist and I are dating.  This is great so far but the crunches for time are real.

Seriously though, Toronto has a lot of people in it.  How is it I am worried about dividing my time between two different people in a much smaller centre!?!

There are so many things to consider when I have to figure out where I will spend my time.  I want to see both of them, but I have more preexisting plans with The Flautist.  But how much do I weigh that?  I also really don't want to run my relationships in an overly hierarchical fashion, and since I was dating The Flautist before the Danthropologist (I decided to capitalize one The and not the other, and I don't know why) there is a real risk of putting The Flautist higher, and I don't want to do that.

But on the other hand, my feelings for The Flautist are bigger and more powerful, in large part because they have had so much more time to grow.  Surely spending more time with people you have big feelings for is reasonable... but how do you balance that against the desire to find time for new feelings for someone else to flourish?  I want that; the opportunity for it for certain, the actuality is more of a thing that will happen or it won't.

The jackass part of my brain wants to answer with "Obvious solution.  Threesomes.  All the time!  Problem solved." but this isn't actually a solution.

If it was a solution I would win at life and everybody else could just play for second place, but it isn't.

This problem isn't one I can solve.  It isn't going to be resolved permanently, I hope, because that will really only happen if one relationship blows up.  It is just a constant thing I have to balance and consider, and because needs and circumstances are rarely simple or equal it will never be trivial.  People move and need strong arms, or have bad days and need comforting, or come up with exciting plans on particular days.  All of that must be carefully weighed.  That weighing is something I take really seriously, and although I am sure I get it wrong at times, I always think carefully about it.  This is precisely the sort of thing that keeps me up at night, worrying at the edges of the problem, trying to find better solutions.  I don't like disappointing anyone but you can't avoid that entirely.

Of course I recognize that this is about the best problem to have.  There are two smart, driven, interesting women that make me happy and who want to see me.  I have to figure out how to balance that.  This is exactly the sort of thing that #firstworldproblems was made for.

Monday, August 14, 2017

A game of babies

The other day I saw something that illustrated clearly to me the struggles we have with compassion as a society.  In a forum about the World Boardgaming Championships which I attended two weeks ago someone was complaining about baby changing stations in the bathrooms in the convention centre.  You might imagine that people would be complaining that there weren't enough change stations, or that the change stations were only available in the women's washrooms.  I have encountered both of these issues personally.

But no.

The complaint was about changing stations existing at all.  The complainer was unhappy that children were being changed in the washrooms, because he expected people with children to take them back to their rooms to change them.  His preference was that change stations would be eliminated entirely because that would get rid of the problem of people changing babies in public spaces.

His complaint was pitched around the idea of contamination.  He didn't like the idea of the possibility of fecal matter from baby changes being spread around, and expressed concern that other babies might get sick if they were changed on the same change table that another baby had used.

This nonsense reminds me a lot of the arguments used to try to force breastfeeding out of the public domain.  It is entirely driven by people's ick reactions, with the added twist of sexualizing breastfeeding parents and/or babies.  Some people will be honest and just say that they are icked out by the whole thing, and although I think they should just shut up and cope at least they are being honest about why they object.

It really riles me up though when people make bonus 'safety' arguments to justify their attempts to control others just based on an ick response.  The idea that baby changing stations should be removed to help the babies is transparently absurd.  Toilet seats aren't removed to 'help' adults who don't want to spread around fecal matter.  We don't ask fully grown people to walk long distances to their rooms to use the washroom to reduce contamination.  But some of those adults still seem to feel justified asking parents and babies to travel this way.

In the same way some people insist that breastfeeding ought to happen in cars or washrooms to get it out of the public eye.  It is usually pitched as a way to make things safer for children who might accidentally see a breast, with no thought as to how much of a problem it is for the baby or the person feeding them.

The classism is these arguments really gets to me.  Some people have enough money that they can easily set it up so that they aren't the ones who have to cope with a baby's needs.  When they want to go out they just pay to have somebody else deal with their children.  Rich people are also in a much better position to have one of the baby's parents dedicate themselves entirely to child rearing which makes dealing with these logistical issues simpler.  But many people don't have the money to farm out baby care and they have to bring their infants along with them.  They don't have the resources to sequester their infant's bodily needs away from all the people who are made squeamish by them.  It is a situation of a rich person being angry at a poor person for the crime of being poor.

Even when it is a choice we should support it.  Even if someone has plenty of money we ought to set up the world so that they can care for their babies as they go about their day.

I totally understand that some people, especially those who have never made a baby, can find it hard to know what a caregiver needs.  That small bit of ignorance is easily enough cured.  The real problem is people who know what caregivers need and then insist that they not get it in order to keep babies at bay, and do so with bogus 'safety' arguments.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Country muscles vs. city muscles

When I am home in Toronto I lift weights.  I spend about an hour and fifteen minutes in a session lifting as hard as I can.  It leaves me with pain all through my upper body, and this is a good thing as I have developed an addiction to it.  When I don't have pain through my shoulders, arms, and chest I start to feel weird, like something is missing.  I need more suffering!

This has given me some pretty reasonable muscles.  However, now that I am up visiting my folks in Thunder Bay I am doing some very different exercise indeed.  Today I spent a good chunk of the day shovelling gravel to build a new lockstone patio.  This is the country boy kind of exercise I am used to from my youth!  It takes a long time, gets real things done, and doesn't seem to leave you with the same kind of muscles that city boy exercising does.

I get sore doing country boy exercise.  Right now I feel it in my traps and delts, (shoulders) and I certainly feel like I worked hard today.  I guess the real difference is consistency.  I might do a bunch of different work when I am out doing the whole country living thing, but I never consistently push a single muscle over and over to its limits.  I might work hard and get things done, but that lack of consistency means that I never got big, and never saw any changes.

It isn't just doing it every day either.  Country muscles do all kinds of things.  Painting, climbing, lifting beams, shovelling gravel, and carrying buckets.  Also there are lots of types of work that leave you tired at day end but don't actually push your limits in any way like mowing gigantic lawns and driving tractors around.

I spent my early life doing country boy exercises, and getting country boy muscles, which is to say, not much to look at.

I like city boy exercises.  I do wish they had the 'getting things done' aspect that country exercises do, but I really like the limited time frame of weight lifting and also the results.  I want to get it done quick, and I want to get big.

That means a gym instead of a yard.  I guess I am okay with that.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

How to be a storyteller

Pinkie Pie likes telling stories with me.  We often end up telling team stories where we take turns swapping who is the one telling the story which means that the stories end up in all kinds of strange places.  I often will start a segment with "and an elephant falls from the sky, crushing all of them to death" and then Pinkie Pie will fuss at me and tell me to do it right.  Eventually I will stop dropping rocks on the characters and continue the saga of the princess who has a magic wand or the fairy who has to go to school.

One thing that is tricky for me to figure out how to handle is the way Pinkie Pie resolves conflict.  She often resorts to instant solutions for plot problems that don't leave much in the way of story.  If the princess has an enemy, she just waves her wand and the enemy goes away.  If the fairy is swept downstream in a flash flood, she is instantly rescued.

What Pinkie Pie doesn't seem to grasp is that overcoming problems is the key to interesting plot and stories that people care about.  Nobody wants to read about the princess who fixes every problem by waving a wand and magicking it away!  They want to hear about suffering and challenge and effort to overcome long odds.

I am not quite sure what to tell her about this.  On one hand I like the idea of letting her just go with her stories.  Criticizing her and telling her that she is doing it wrong doesn't seem especially productive when I really want her to just explore her options and be creative.  Her stories aren't *wrong* after all, they just aren't compelling.

On the other hand I want her to understand how to craft a narrative.  I want her to learn how to tell a tale that will entrance her audience, and capture their imaginations.  Stories about invincible heroes who defeat all comers without any effort are boring.

(The fact that Eddings' stories about Belgarion are as popular as they are is still a shock to me, considering how badly they violate the guidelines I am laying out here...)

I have defaulted to just letting her solve problems instantly with magic or luck without any comment from me.  It doesn't make for good stories, but eventually she will see that and begin to craft more interesting resolutions to issues.  Or not, I guess, but telling uninteresting stories isn't the worst character trait you can have.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Supplies report, Day 11

The world boardgaming championships is over for 2017 and I am home again.  In terms of raw winningness I ended similarly to last year.  I made two final tables in both years, though my results of 2nd and 2nd last year were better than my 4th and 3rd this year.  I am still immeasureably happy to have gone and it was wonderful to reconnect with so many people.  Playing games or even just kibitzing games with people so talented is great times indeed.  Those final tables were made along with a total of eight semi finals, so my 25% advancement rate is right on schedule.  I still haven't won an event outright, but clearly it is just a matter of time if I keep up this rate of getting into semi finals for various events.

My food plan worked out really nicely, as I brought only a little bit of my supplies back home.

I brought 64 granola bars, and only 6 came back.  Of my 2 jars of pickles, half a jar returned.  The peanuts were the only real failure as I hardly went through any of those.  Thankfully I can just eat them over the next few months.  All of the meat and fruit and cereal all got eaten and I went to the buffet twice, just enough to stop me from going nuts from not having a hot meal for days on end.

All in all I managed to stay at a nice hotel for a nine day convention and have an absolute blast for a cost of under $1200 CAN in total.  As far as entertainment dollars go that is a steal.

I am really lucky to be able to do this.  My inlaws and Wendy taking Pinkie Pie for ten days is required for me to attend and some people don't have that offer on the table.  The ability to attend WBC this way really makes parenting overall a much more rewarding and enjoyable thing - knowing that every so often I get to run away from my responsibilities and party like it is 1999 (seriously, WBC is an awful lot like 1999 was for me!) is a critical release valve.

I am exhausted but deeply happy.  Already looking forward to next year.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Report on supplies

I am at the world boardgaming championships this week.  So far it is a highly enjoyable affair, particularly the part where I get to get reacquainted with a bunch of smart, interesting people that I met last year.  It is wonderful to be able to so easily step into really intense strategy discussions and debate with people who are so talented at this thing I do.

My actual gaming results so far are pretty mediocre, but that isn't surprising considering the schedule.  I played a lot of Agricola but I am not one of the sharks in that game - to be good you need to know every one of the hundreds of cards and also know just how good each of them is and how they interact with all the other cards.  I know a few of them.... but I am nowhere near a strong player.  I have enough skill to beat a lot of the randoms that show up but I am not the best player at the table.  I ended up with a 2nd, 2nd, 3rd set of results, and I feel like that is reasonable because I think I was the 2nd, 2nd, 4th best player at the table in those games.

It isn't often I sit down for a strategy game thinking that I am the worst player at the table, but it happens in Agricola at WBC.

My food strategy for last year worked reasonably so I am following it again.  I bought a ton of fruit and vegetables that would keep and lots of granola bars so I don't have to go to restaurants.  I just can't convince myself that paying $25 US for a buffet is reasonable.

It is Day 2 so far and I have eaten more meat than I bargained for.  My meal plan calls for half a package of meat per day, and the first day an entire pack went away.  Cereal and peanut stocks remain full though, so total calories for the week is probably okay still.  Last year I bought 4 pounds of carrots, and after 3 pounds I was DONE with carrots.  This year I went with 2 pounds of carrots so it should be fine.  I budgeted for 6 granola bars per day for the duration and I am on schedule there.  My suspicion is that I will end up with peanuts left over but that the rest will all get consumed.

The absolute best thing about this year though?  Instead of losing my phone at the hotel before the convention and spending days in a panic trying to figure out how to find it and get it back, I have my phone in my pocket and I am focusing on the fun bits.  What a mess that was.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Keeping my eye on the prize

My post about answering a question from Pinkie Pie "Daddy, why do we clean up so much for guests?" got an interesting response on Facebook.  Someone I don't know waded in and opined that mine was an example of the disaster that is permissive parenting.  His basis thesis was that children raised in permissive households do terribly in school, both having emotional problems and testing poorly.  I want to break this down into parts to address each of them separately because I think that will be most revealing.

The assumption is that permissive parenting creates huge problems in school, and the conclusion is that children should be raised to be obedient in a more authoritarian style in order to avoid this.

I don't actually buy the assumption but the person writing it claims many years of experience teaching children, so I would be pitting my opinion against the opinion of a presumably better informed person.  I would greatly appreciate it if any of my teacher friends or family members could shed light on this issue from a more informed or even scientific standpoint.  Does permissive parenting truly make school much more difficult for children?

Let us allow the assumption to hold for a moment.  Assume that children raised in permissive households where they are allowed to ask questions and their opinions are given substantial weight have a difficult time in school and make it hard on themselves and their teachers.  Does it then follow that I should raise my child in a more authoritarian fashion?

It does not.

The problem is that the conclusion rests on an unstated assumption that the most important thing I can do is raise a child that will fit into a structured, hierarchical system like our schools are.  Not only do I completely reject that assumption, in fact I think I should be doing the opposite.  I don't want teachers to have a difficult time but beating my child into being the round peg that the system demands is exactly what I don't want.

I want my child to be curious.  I want her to feel that she has the right to guide her own life.  I want her to feel that she can and should confidently ask for reasons for the things she is asked to do.  I want her to be independent in action and thought and to question the dogma and common assumptions that are made all around her all the time.

When the school asks her to stand and sing the national anthem I want her to question why we sing a song that references God in a country that should respect all religions and those who do not subscribe to one.  I want her to have the courage to say no if she wants to, and know that I will back her up all the way.

I want a child who knows that when an elderly relative demands physical affection that she can say no, and that her decision will be supported and respected.  I want her to push past the boundaries of what everyone expects to find her own path.

And none of that comes from teaching her to obey without question.  My job isn't to raise a person who does what she is told.  My job is to raise a person who forges paths nobody else even thought of, who does things people say you can't do, and who builds things that were thought impossible.  I don't get to that point by telling her that she has to obey because I said so and I pay the bills.

I don't subscribe to some Permissive Parent Philsophy, if there even is such a thing.  Children are almost universally given more responsibility and autonomy as they grow, and I know I give her more autonomy at a given age than most parents do their own children.  I tailor her freedom to her abilities and desires as well as my own sense of safety.

I don't want to create difficulties in school for my child, but if raising her to think, to question, to seek to understand, and to resist orders that she thinks are wrong makes school difficult... then school is going to be difficult.  That is a price worth paying.

Friday, July 14, 2017

The big sacrifices

I found a chart the other day that really got me thinking about how we think about environmentalism.  It listed a bunch of the things you can do to help reduce your carbon emissions and their relative impact.  This is something we need more of, I think, because people do often focus on doing easy things that aren't especially useful.  For example, changing all your lightbulbs to more efficient ones reduces your output per year by 100kg.  Recycling reduces it by 210kg.

And declining one single return flight across the atlantic reduces it by 1600kg.

Yeah.  Just think about that.  Did all the things you tried to do for the environment for the entire year get dwarfed by that single long distance flight you took?

Mine didn't quite get zeroed out though, because I live car free, and that gives me a 2400kg bonus, so I am ahead on that count at least.

But the real killer is that a person in Canada emits roughly 20,000kg of carbon emissions per year.  If Wendy and I had decided to be childless then we could own a car and take five flights to Europe a year each and still be ahead of where we are now with our one kid.

And if we didn't have a child we would easily have the money for that car and those flights!

But people who have three kids?  There is *nothing* they can do that even approaches the scale of the emissions that their kids create.  They can go vegetarian, walk everywhere, completely refuse plane travel, recycle, hang their washing to dry, and it won't matter.  Their decision to have children means that the emissions from their family will dwarf the emissions from my family, period.

A really rich family could definitely push their emissions higher even with few or no children.  Buy a yacht and sail that thing around all day every day.  Own five houses and heat and cool the heck out of them.  Have a car for every day of the week, go nuts.

But by and large, it is the number of people that is the biggest factor once you take out the extreme high and low outliers in terms of wealth.

Not that any of this is news.  Overpopulation is the primary driver of basically all of our environmental concerns.  But sometimes you look at a chart and then it really hits you that population is the real thing, and the rest just follows from it.

I don't quite know what to make of it.  I made the decision to have a child without really thinking about it this way, and now it makes all of the decisions I make about environmentalism seem utterly absurd.  Penny wise, pound foolish, almost.

To clean or not to clean

A couple days ago we had a bunch of guests come over to our place to visit.  Pinkie Pie and I were home during the day so I set out to clean the place in anticipation of our guests arriving.  About halfway through Pinkie Pie asked me why we cleaned in anticipation of guests arriving.  I wanted to say this:

"Well Pinkie Pie, we, like most humans, exist in constant fear of losing our status amongst our peers so we engage in ceaseless virtue signalling in a vain attempt to convince those around us that we are superior.  We do this by vacuuming and cleaning the bathroom, in a desperate gambit to trick people into thinking we always live in such cleanliness.  I know this, but it doesn't stop me from accepting a foolish social norm that clean floors equates to goodness of character and desperately trying to make my guests feel inadequate by making my home cleaner than theirs."

I could have said that.

It is nearly all true, even.  But she doesn't understand the term virtue signalling, and the concepts there are more than she can grasp in a single go.

So I broke it down a bit smaller.

"Well Pinkie Pie, I needed to vacuum the floor at some point, as it has been a week or two.  Doing it when guests are coming over is as fine a time as any, and if anyone is allergic to the cat then getting the cat fluff off of the floor is a good plan.  We don't *have* to do this for friends, but there are going to be a lot of people and so we will all appreciate having as much space as possible so tidying up is a good idea in any case."

I couldn't find a good excuse for scrubbing the tub.  It isn't like the guests are even going to see in the tub, the curtain will be over it.  I could have thrown buckets of shit in the tub and they wouldn't know except for the smell.

Yet I scrubbed the tub.

So I made sure to include a bit of that.

"Sometimes we are silly and we clean more than we need to.  It reassures me to have a clean place when guests come over, even if it is kind of pointless.  They probably won't notice or care, but I do feel better when I make an effort to show the better side of normal at my home.  I won't do anything unusual, but I feel better when I display an above average version of my home."

Then she got me.  She asked why I clean up for my friends but not her friends.


She admitted that her friends wouldn't notice or care, and that she didn't care if I did, but she wanted to know why.

"I guess it just doesn't bother me to not have the place clean if your friends come over because they make a gigantic mess immediately anyway.  And since they don't care what the place looks like, and they aren't going to invite me over in turn, it doesn't matter to me much."

All of which is true, but it kind of sidesteps the fact that in this way adults matter to me and kids don't.  I am not measuring my status against children, so I don't try to impress them in this way.

I know some parents find these questions hard or unpleasant.  I love them!  They force me to articulate complicated concepts in simple words and examine myself in ways that I usually do not.  Plus they let me teach Pinkie Pie about the silly ways that the world works and makes jokes that make her laugh.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

The downside of upsizing

The world likes to talk about how great it is to be stronger.  The benefits of working out are many, from being healthier to being hotter.  Much is made of the obvious downside - having to be in the gym all the time - but little is made of another downside, which is clothing and its inability to be multiple sizes at once.

I have seen plenty of diet programs advertised by showing people tossing aside enormous pants that they have given up because they lost so much weight.  Look at me, these people say, I was once a size that needed scientific notation to be properly expressed, and now my size is a number that a six year old can count to!

It isn't nearly as fun when you are getting bigger and having to set aside clothes that simply don't go on your body anymore.  This isn't a problem with shirts because half of the point of working out was to wear super tight shirts, #casuallyflexing but pants are a real pain in the ass.  Or perhaps more accurately, a pain in the gut.  I have been doing lots of core exercises and leg days these past few months and now I can't get into most of the pants and shorts I own.  My stomach basically looks the same, but it is clear I built a bunch of muscle underneath and now things just don't fit.  Or maybe I am building up muscle in my butt?  Hard to say.

On the weekend I even busted through my swimsuit when bending over, and my ass was hanging out of a 10 centimeter rip right up the back.

It finally hit a breaking point when I realized that my shorts were so tight they were messing with my digestive system.  I felt like I had to poop but when I went to the bathroom and took off my shorts there was suddenly drastically less pressure around my middle and I didn't need to poop... or at least I couldn't.  There were three trips to the bathroom over the course of an evening where I really felt I had to poop but my body wasn't in any shape to do so once my stomach was free of its bonds.  Something had to change.  My belly yearns to be free, and I want my properly calibrated lower digestive tract back!

So I went and bought new clothes.  Not a ton of them, but enough that I actually have things to put around my lower bits that don't mess up my body's internal sense of when it is full, at least.  Doing so reminded me of why I hate shopping so much and why I always wear my clothes until they fall to off of my body into a pile of rags.

Apparently it is now normal to produce new pants that have a single hole the size of a quarter on one leg.  I get the thing where pants are made with tons of rips and holes as a 'style' thing, even though I would never buy them, but I am totally flummoxed at who thought a singular hole was a design that would sell.  That isn't 'style', it is just shoddy.

It almost tempts me to yell about teenagers these days... except I remember too well the things some of my contemporaries wore when I was young.  Pretty sure nothing much has changed.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Fifth Season

The Fifth Season is a book in a series by N K Jemisin.  It is superb and wonderful and everyone should read it for a dizzying array of reasons.  When I review books I try to provide both positive and negative feedback and avoid portraying things as PERFECTLY GOOD or TOTALLY EVIL, but The Fifth Season is just wonderful cover to cover.  There is nothing bad to say.

The story is a fantasy / sci fi crossover.  It is set in a far future Earth, or perhaps an alternate Earth.  It has incredibly futuristic technology as well as magic, although of course when you talk about a story set 20,000 years in Earth's future, the magic could well just be technology that is beyond our modern day comprehension.  The title of the book refers to the fact that in the Earth of the book there is drastically greater volcanic and tectonic activity than today and times of cataclysm are common.  When tsunamis strike and the air is clouded with volcanic ash, when poison rains from the sky and winter lasts for years at a time, this is the Fifth Season.

The world is beautiful and deep and marvellous.  The magic users of the world have incredible power but are counterbalanced by other forces.  Jemisin doesn't just spend her time going over how the magic works technically though because she has embedded it deeply in the political and cultural norms of the world.  The constant catastrophes and the way that magic users can prevent or alter them is a critical part of the worldbuilding.  This isn't Feudal England with Fireballs - it is a completely new world that Jemisin reveals to us, and it is one that makes sense.

I love it when fantasy is done like this.  It is boring when the world is just assumed to be Earth but with random magic stamped in willy nilly.  Far better is someone who twists the entire world to react to the presence of magic and shows us amazing new things that humanity could become in that place.

Jemisin does a great job of having a diverse cast of characters too.  She describes people so that you can see their racial features and understand what the characters look like without simply assuming that everyone is a normal white person like so many fantasy books do.  She also includes queer and trans characters seamlessly and beautifully.  It isn't a story about what it is like to be queer, or even what it is like to be queer in a magical society.  It is simply a story where some people are queer or trans and they are just part of the narrative.  Needless to say women also get to play an equal part in the world, another thing few fantasy or science fiction stories manage.  We need more of this!

Similarly there are love stories that aren't monogamous ones.  This certainly hits home for me because monogamy utterly dominates books and stories of all sorts, but The Fifth Season has characters who end up in non monogamous relationships that are quirky, individual, happy, and loving.  The book isn't about polyamory and indeed the word never appears but the best and most functional relationship that the main characters end up in consists of three people.  Even better, I think, that it isn't a simple triangle of perfect loves because all three of the people have different relationships with one another.  It reflects real life in that it is tricky and messy sometimes, but it works for them.

The technology and magic in the world is interesting and well written.  The history of the world is deep and fascinating to learn about as the book progresses.  The characters are flawed, real, difficult, and compelling.  The diversity of the cast and the way that Jemisin weaves in stories that are so often forgotten or ignored is marvellous.

This is the best fantasy book I have read in a long time.  Maybe ever.  This is also the best science fiction book I have read in a long time.  Maybe ever.  If you like either of those genres, this is what the biggest and best new thing looks like.  The third book of the series comes out this summer and I will be eagerly awaiting it.

You should too.

Dressed down to stand out

Pinkie Pie graduated grade five this week and will soon be moving on to a new school.  There was a fair bit of disagreement amongst parents as to how to handle this change because most of us remember not having any sort of graduation ceremony until grade 8 but the kids were all wound up to the maximum about it.  Even so, lots of parents talked about all the money they spent on new clothes for grad, some of which were never expected to be worn again.

Most of the parents don't really care about it, but we don't want to stomp all over the kids' feelings either.

When this sort of thing happens, even if parents don't care much about it, there is a big focus on dressing up and appearance.  Most of the kids were in fancy clothes and there was a lot of makeup, new haircuts, and extra polish evident.

Pinkie Pie wanted to just wear her normal tshirt and leggings.  

Most parents would forbid this.  I am not most parents.

In fact, I quite like the idea of her refusing to put on a culturally mandated costume for this event, and I quite approve of wearing normal clothes.  I did have some worries eating at the back of my brain though.  I was concerned that other kids would make fun of Pinkie Pie's lack of dress clothes.  I was concerned that she would end up feeling uncomfortable at a table full of fancied up kids in her normal gear.

My solution to this was to tell her she could wear whatever she wanted but that other kids would be dressed up fancy.  I told her that she would probably stand out.  I made completely clear that she was welcome to wear whatever she liked though, and that I personally didn't care.

She chose to go with her regular clothes and as far as I know nobody said a word about it.  If I had seen them give her grief I would have been really tempted to step in and crack some heads (by which I mean I would tell them they are terrible people) but I saw nothing of the sort and Pinkie Pie came home at the end of the evening quite pleased with everything.

Even if they had given her grief about her clothes though I would not have regretted my decision to let her pick her wardrobe.  You have to learn these lessons yourself at some point or other, and learning them in grade 5 is a relatively low impact spot.  

After the grad she went out to a restaurant with her classmates without us and came home telling us of all the wonderful things that the Mandarin restaurant serves.

I suspect many or most parents would be a little sad at watching their kid grow up like this.  Graduating to a new school and going out for dinner without us is a couple of new steps all taken together.  I LOVE it.  

It makes me happy to watch her grow and mature.  I like her every step into independence and freedom and being herself, away from us.  Fly, little unicorn, fly!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Poly correlations

I noticed something odd recently about the people I met last summer.  When I went to the World Boardgaming Championships in July I met a ton of new and interesting people and ended up being Facebook friends with 9 of them.  Over the past year I have seen their posts on Facebook and discovered that 3 of the 9 are openly polyamorous.  This is a surprisingly large number because only 5% or less of the population identifies this way and a great many of those are closeted and wouldn't discuss their relationships on Facebook for fear of retribution.  Also some of the 6 rarely post to FB so I have little information and I haven't asked anyone directly about it.

I had a vague suspicion that one of the 3 poly people was poly at the time, but it was nothing more than a suspicion.  The other two were a complete surprise - not that they did anything to suggest otherwise, but rather I received no information at all.  I don't think this is a case of me having some sort of poly radar.

It makes me wonder about the correlations between various character traits.  It makes lots of sense that the people I would like at a convention would have similar political leanings, we clearly have the same hobby, and I might also share values on things like religion.  What I don't know is how much these other things correlate to being polyamorous.  Are political lefties more likely to be poly?  I would suspect so since left wing parties would tend to be a lot more accepting of their lifestyle but I certainly can't offer convincing proof of that.  Left wing politics and polyamory are also both correlated to higher education, and I tend to like talking to people who have been in school forever, so that could be a factor also.

I would also expect a correlation with atheism or agnosticism because religions tend to push traditional family structures.  Not all of them do, and not everywhere, but there is a trend for sure.  People who refuse to listen to authority seem more likely to independently reject religious orthodoxy and mononormativity too.

Before I came out as poly I thought that there were hardly any polyamorous folks around.  Now I know so many!  I wonder how much of that is tapping into new parts of the web of humanity that lean that way, and how much is an actual shift in the number of people being poly and being open about it.  The news is constantly putting out new articles about polyamory so people are more aware, and acceptance is increasing.  Clearly both of those things are changing my social network, but I honestly have no idea how much of the changes I see I can attribute to each.

I don't develop an instant liking for anyone who is poly, that much is certain.  I joined a bunch of Facebook groups over the past few months centered around polyamory and I left the great majority of them while clutching my ears and moaning "No, not like this."  The only groups I stayed in were ones that were built around my social web, so I certainly gravitate towards people that share my values more generally.

Of course I must end with the note that this could quite easily just be entirely random.  The sample size is obviously quite tiny so I can't draw sweeping conclusions.

Also if you happen to be a person I met at WBC and you are polyamorous feel free to send me a message because I am curious if there is more to this trend than I know!  (I won't discuss names publicly, obviously, unless you want me to.)

Monday, June 19, 2017

An unnecessarily happy ending

I saw the movie Chappie this weekend.  It was a bad movie that managed to entertain me despite its badness.  Throughout most of the movie I would have deemed it quite fun indeed, but unfortunately the ending really fell to bits.

Chappie is about a robot called Chappie in the near future who acquires self awareness and begins to rapidly learn, growing up from unable to speak or understand anything to functioning roughly like a teenager within about 5 days.  Chappie is involved with criminals and desperately violent makers of war robots so there is some action involved too.

A lot of the time when people try to write science fiction movies I end up being really disappointed by them.  I don't mind preposterous assumptions as long as the movie makes those assumptions clear and then writes a good story that makes sense afterwards.  Chappie was normal in that regard because the way that Chappie acquires consciousness is unrealistic and the rate at which Chappie learns is ridiculous.  However, the story of a robot growing up and trying to cope with the terrible conditions it finds itself in worked for me.

The problem is that the movie should have ended tragically.  Chappie and most of the humans surrounding it should have perished.  There was only one reasonably sympathetic character in the movie to my mind and it still made sense for him to die the way the story played out.  However, that doesn't happen.  The plot instead calls for Chappie to personally discover the secret of completely learning, digitizing, and transferring consciousness from body to body, including from human to robot.  This way instead of everyone dying in a savage battle most of the main characters get to have stupid and unsatisfying resurrection scenes at the end of the movie.

I can cope with resurrection scenes, but when you just randomly tack them on to the end of a movie it cheapens everything that went before it.  A character's heroic death suddenly isn't much of a thing when the writers randomly and without foreshadowing simply bring them back to life.

There is also the problem with the visuals.  A lot of the scenes in the movie involve using computers and mostly they manage to make it look reasonable.  Some hacker movies can't stop themselves from having the hackers manipulating giant 3D constructs when 'writing code' and Chappie at least avoided that... until the consciousness mapping part.

Apparently you can look at a digitized consciousness as an animated image, and it looks like a pixellated random colour map on a computer screen.

I know you want the characters and audience to see *something* when the main character suddenly acquires the ability to replicate human and robot consciousness, but having it randomly be a splatter of colours with a constant shimmy to it just makes me cringe.

The movie could have been so much better if either the foolish and unnecessary consciousness mapping was removed or if it just didn't work and all the characters died in the end.  A tragedy would have been infinitely better than the Deus Ex Machina (seriously!) mess that comprised the denouement of Chappie.

It is just sloppy.  Tell me what bullshit I have to believe for the story to work, then write a good story.  Don't get halfway through and then decide to make up a bunch of new bullshit to desperately scavenge an acceptably happy ending out of a story that shouldn't be that way.  The best science fiction explores what happens in a world with a twist, it doesn't keep adding twists until the story can be turned into pablum for the masses.