Wednesday, April 12, 2017

How I met your parents

I have met the parents of someone I am dating four times.  One of those was under strange circumstances and wasn't really a 'meet my parents' sort of thing, and another was short circuited because I met the parents long before the dating even began.  If memory serves, I met Wendy's parents at her wedding to her ex husband... though I suppose I really wasn't interviewed quite the same way in that circumstance.

The first time I met someone's parents in a more traditional sense we had the issue of religion.  They were religious while I am ... not.  That sort of thing can be a real strain, especially when you consider the person in the middle who is caught between declaring for either side in that debate.  No choice is going to be easy.  That said, we pushed through and it was generally fine.

This past weekend was the second 'meet the parents' event (with The Flautist) and religion wasn't an issue this time.  However, there is a new issue - polyamory.  Specifically, when your daughter says to you "Oh, I am dating a married man now.  His wife is totally okay with it, I promise!" there is a certain amount of skepticism that is normal and reasonable.

In my case everyone *is* totally okay with it.  It is all open and honest and good.

But even then, if Pinky Pie came home someday with that story I would be suspicious.  If it turned out that the relationship did follow that formula I would be perfectly happy with it, but let's face it:  There are a lot more married men cheating on their wives than there are poly married men having honest relationships.  The numbers do not favour the poly guess, in general.

Most people wouldn't append the story "and I met his wife during my first date with him and we got along great and went to a concert together without him" though, and that certainly adds a lot of credence to the story.

The fact that the people I was meeting had totally valid reasons to doubt my morality gave me some doubt.  I didn't figure I would have to cope with accusatory stares and veiled accusations, but these are people I don't know.  I wasn't at all sure what would happen.

But it was all good.  I chatted with both of them for awhile, talking about work, chores, relationships, and the difficulty of getting paid for creative efforts.  Then I had a good ole fashioned debate about energy policy, politics, and voting systems.  I am sure that everyone would tell me to stay the hell away from politics when meeting the parents, but since when have I ever backed down from that sort of thing?  I did carefully check to make sure nobody was getting upset about the debate, but I really think it was an entirely friendly affair.  It helped that we have similar political leanings, though of course we disagreed on the details of implementation.

All in all though it went as well as meeting the parents ever can go, I think.  I suppose that generally if people decide that they really need to get along despite having some pretty big differences they can make it work, and that certainly has been my experience so far.

Friday, April 7, 2017

What does google know

Google knows I want to get ripped.

To be frank, Google knows an awful lot of what I want.  When I talk to Wendy about the rats involved in her research my internet is full of ads for exterminators.  Close one Google, but no cigar.  But when Google pitches me ads about getting ripped abs it is on the money.  I have been amping up my exercise in general but also particularly adding on stomach exercises.

Wendy told me that getting bulky isn't really a good thing.  In fact she thinks my shoulders look worse because I actually have a bit on muscle on top of them now.  But a six pack, that is the ticket.  So I am doing more tummy exercises in a fruitless attempt to amp my abs.

Here is the thing about Google's abs ads, when targetted at me.  They all say "Men over 40 are getting ripped abs doing this one weird thing!"

Sorry Google, I am 38.  Hell, you *must* know that.  You know everything else!

But then I ask myself:  Are the ads showing grey haired men with preposterous abs aimed at men in their 30s too?  Is the idea to shame me into buying stuff because men older than me have sculpted bellies?  Maybe they aren't aiming the "Men over 40" nonsense at me by accident, but rather deliberately.

I followed the stupid ads today, wading through 45 minutes of crap to finally get to the payoff.  What is it, I wondered, that these snake oil fraudsters with their immaculately built bodies are trying to sell me?  Pills that do nothing?  Steroids that do something, but also many wrong things?

Nope.  After 10 minutes of bragging, 10 more minutes of vague generalities, 10 minutes of insulting every 'conventional' diet and exercise regimen, and 10 minutes of complete pseudoscientific nonsense about optimizing your hormone levels via carefully guarded secrets, I finally got to the 5 minutes of real stuff.

Which was just a diet and exercise program.  Apparently the most ripped 24 year old on Youtube and his personal doctor have an amazing, groundbreaking program that will activate my hormones, blast away my belly fat, and make me into a monstrous beast of a man.

They seem to be leaning on new, shocking techniques like "Eat a lot of meat for protein and vegetables, and don't eat sugary crap" and "Exercise hard using multiple muscle groups".

All of which will activate my leptin and testosterone hormones and give me a stomach that will cause random scantily clad women to fawn over me.

Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't mind that whole fawning thing, at least for a bit.  However, I was honestly expecting a lot more from all that build up.  If you want to convince me that your program is all that, you really ought to come up with something a lot more interesting.  If all I get is generic pablum of exercise advice I really don't need to pay you for it.  Their advice doesn't even look bad, it is just backed up with endless prattle that is a pack of lies surrounded by half truths.

But damn, there are SO MANY ads for this garbage.  They must be getting a lot of people to buy into it.  That part makes me really sad, because I was willing to watch 45 minutes of trash on the side of my screen while working on something else because I was curious about what the final pitch was.  Unfortunately there are a lot of people who believe this nonsense and end up handing over their money.

Just one more moment that makes me weep for humanity.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Horsin' around

I started watching the Netflix cartoon Bojack Horseman.  I can't say why I jumped on the bandwagon exactly, but once I got on I really didn't want to get off again.

Bojack Horseman is the sort of show I have trouble pinning down.  Is it a ridiculous, idiotic comedy that relies on sex jokes and absurdity to get a couple of giggles, or is it an insightful critique of modern society?  I can't tell!

The show stars a horse.  Who is a man.  I mean, he has the body of a middle aged human male, with a horse's head.  The rest of the world is populated by a mixture of relatively normal humans and humans with animal heads.  That would be pretty weird just on its own, but the animals do impossible yet thematically appropriate things.  The ones with bird heads can flap their arms and fly around... but they are flapping entirely normal human arms.

Also three main characters are Bojack Horseman, a horse/man, Princess Carolyn (not actually a princess), a cat/woman, and Mr. Peanut Butter (not actually composed of peanut butter), a dog/man.  Did somebody get a four year old to name these characters?  Are their names supposed to be clever and ironic somehow?

I have a lot of respect for writing that makes me stare at the screen while stroking my beard and wondering if the writers are incredibly clever or incredibly dumb.

The thing is, the characters oscillate rapidly between preposterous comedy and interesting interaction that showcases real dilemmas and challenging situations.  Bojack sets up a giant autoerotic asphyxiation structure in his bedroom just to try to figure out if his girlfriend will tell him not to use it, because this will reveal if she loves him or not.  On the other hand once that comedy gold is mined thoroughly they actually have a real conversation that is kind of touching and it feels like how real people might deal with complicated conflict.

There is an episode largely about the ethical conflicts of eating meat, and it makes interesting points by having chicken/people farming other chicken/people to supply chicken as a food to other humans and human hybrids.  Of course it includes a car driving through a barn as part of a caper to rescue the food chickens from the chicken farmers (who are themselves chickens) so you can't take it too seriously.

But maybe the hijinks involved are just there so the writers can send a message about how humans wall off some creatures as being worth saving while others are okay to torture and consume, and make those divisions based on random and indefensible criteria.  If you add comedy, you don't sound quite so preachy, see?

I just don't know.  Is it mindless crap, just filling my days, or is it brilliant satire?  I don't know.

I do know that it makes me laugh out loud on a regular basis and I care about the characters even though they are silly and surreal.  Maybe that is all I need to know to decide that I should watch the next episode, so the writers have succeeded in that, at least.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Dinner for two

I just read an article about Mike Pence, America's new Vice President.  In it Pence is quoted as saying that he would never be willing to have a meal with a woman other than his wife unless someone else was present.  The article concludes, rightly so, that this is a huge problem for someone in a position of power like Pence is.  It restricts his ability to interact with women, and thus pushes women out of his circle.  Women have enough difficulty getting to the top of the power pyramid as it is.

It is entirely okay for people to have whatever rules they want as part of their relationship.  Whether you are Mike Pence and can't have lunch with a woman, or whether you want to be collared and chained, spending your days playing fetch and being called Rover, if everyone agrees to the relationship rules then they can have them.

But you really do have an obligation to consider how your rules affect the people around you and how they are influenced by the complex social pressures that are inherent in our culture.  If a black person says they want to only date black people, and a white person says they only want to date white people, these are different things.  Racism is real, and you need to spend time thinking about how your attractions and relationships are affected by it if you want to do the right thing by the people around you.  Other entrenched bigotry is the same way.

I chose the two examples above deliberately because they are both about equally unthinkable for me personally.  If I had ever tried to tell Wendy that she couldn't have a meal with a man without a chaperone she would have told me to shove it, called out my heteronormativity, viciously mocked my sexism, and broken up with me.  Not necessarily in that order.

If she had done the same with me I would have assumed she was joking and laughed my ass off.  If she was serious I would have broken up with her right away and wondered how the hell I was so wrong.

The collaring / Rover thing would have been completely different.  My 'hell no' reaction would have been roughly the same, but I would have just said hell no and then kept on doing whatever I was doing before.  Pretty sure Wendy would still have yelled at me if the roles were reversed, and that tennis ball would definitely have gone un-fetched.

In any case Pence's rules are hilarious when I consider my life these days.  If Wendy wanted to have dinner with a man and ended up having sex on the table the only thing that would worry me is cleaning up the mess, and maybe dressing incidental wounds from forks or shattered crockery.

OKCupid has a question on it that goes like this:

Imagine that you come home to find a partner pouring red wine all over a stranger's naked body and then licking it off. Which, if any of the following, would bother you most?

1.  The spilled wine.
2.  The cheating.
3.  The fact that I was not invited to join in.
4.  Actually this would not bother me.

I find this question hilarious because such a large subset of the population would look at it as an impossibility, a ridiculous thing put in there so you can answer "The spilled wine" and have a giggle at how silly it is.

Whereas I honestly want to answer 1, 3, and 4.  I don't want to have to clean up spilled wine, that is super annoying.  I wouldn't actually be bothered by not being invited, but I would hope to be invited once I arrived home and witnessed the event.

It isn't as though this has actually happened to me.  But if it did, I would definitely brag about it.

Sometimes when I think about these things I am amazed at how my perspective has shifted.  On one hand I recognize that I am in the minority, but there is a big part of me that sees Pence's rules and laughs, thinking "Hah, how absurd!" and then realizes that most people see his rules as either normal, expected, or perfectly understandable, and they think my rules are evil, ludicrous, or dangerous.  I am stuck in this place where what I do now seems like the only reasonable way to exist while being entirely aware that hardly anybody else does it this way.  I find myself sometimes hearing people talking about what they can't do and I wonder why in the world that would be so, and then realize "Oh right.  Monogamy.  That thing everyone does."

Monogamy is all right.  But that version of controlling, jealous, heteronormative monogamy that assumes that every interaction between men and women must be about sex and nobody can be trusted to honour their commitments... yuck.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Real life is stranger than fiction

I have lately been watching some House of Cards.  Political maneuvering, backroom dealmaking, and occasional murder are the order of the day in that show.  It depicts an evil, narcissistic, dangerous man as President, one who is convinced of his ability to make deals with anyone and push his agenda through.

The politicians in the show are all over the map.  Some are true believers, fighting for their cause.  Some are simply power hungry.  There are pragmatists who compromise to try to get things done, and there are purists who will torpedo anything that isn't exactly what they want.  The dysfunctionality of that made up American leadership is mindblowing.

Sometimes I think to myself "Wow, these characters are ridiculous.  How do they come up with this stuff.?"

Then I read about actual US politics.

You know, where a evil, narcissistic, dangerous man who is convinced of his own supernatural dealmaking ability is President.  Where legislation can't be passed because it is simultaneously hated by people on every possible side.  People who love the direction the legislation is going, and who have *zero* hope of pushing through their own version, refuse to vote for a compromise solution because it isn't pure enough.  The Republicans control all the branches of government right now and still can't pass a new health care bill, despite spending seven years talking about how literally anything would be better.

The thing that made me shake my head tonight is that it isn't even as though the characters in House of Cards are exaggerated.  All the crazy stuff that happens there isn't crazier than real life... it is in fact a scaled down version of real life.  Because if you actually put stuff as crazy as real life in the show, no one would believe it.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

The rest of my life

The past while I have been mulling over what to do with the rest of my life.  Of course what that really means is that I need a new obsession for a year or so, it isn't really about the rest of my life, but it seems more interesting if I phrase it that way.

I have been thinking about what I do and the level of satisfaction it brings.  I am a homemaker, but I think I am an odd one.  Most people in that role either really love things about being a homemaker or just love raising children.  They change their artwork on the walls to be seasonally appropriate, bake special cookies for different times of the year, take up crafts, or do other similar sorts of things.

The idea of me changing my artwork seasonally makes me giggle, and seasonal baking and knitting are much the same.  Not that I deride anyone who wants to do it, but it sure ain't my thing.

Most of the time I talk about the things I do as not feeling important.  Wendy gets to run off each day challenging herself, chasing her dreams, learning amazing new things and meeting all kinds of like minded people.

I get to do the dishes.

The dishes are not inspiring.

However, the dishes are a thing that is worth doing.  Some of my previous jobs were almost entirely worthless from a 'making the world better' standpoint.  One even made the world worse.  It made me so frustrated to be doing work that might as well not be done.  The dishes, though, those need cleaning.  It isn't exciting work but I do feel a sense of satisfaction from doing it.  When it is done I know I have finished something relevant, something that definitely isn't making the world worse.  The dishes also don't take up all my time and they leave me room to do many other things.

I know deep down that an awful lot of work that people do is completely worthless.  They attend meetings that bring no value.  They fill out forms for no reason.  They try things they know are counterproductive because someone above them wants to look good to someone further up yet and they don't care if it pans out because they will be promoted by then.  Most people do work that has some real value, but everyone does a lot of totally pointless timewasting crap.

Shopping, doing the dishes, cleaning the sink, these are real things that need to happen.

What they don't offer is flow.  Nothing in my basic duties does, unfortunately.  I can't get into flow because all of the stuff I have to do is trivial.  It won't challenge me.  It doesn't make me push myself to be more than I was before.

This is something I have only just realized.  I need to stop thinking of things as having utility to my mental health in general, but rather as having utility either as being good to do or hard to do.  I need both.  If I spend my life doing hard things but bring nothing to the world I won't be happy.  This is why I would struggle as a professional poker player, say.  I would love the play, it would bring me flow, but I would also feel like I was leeching off the world and being worthless.  Whereas if all I do is sit at home knitting and cooking and cleaning I will not find flow, and though I will be useful I will not be fulfilled.  There will be something missing.

I need both things.  There isn't any real chance of me changing my profession at the moment so I will have plenty of useful things to do.  That is well covered.  I need to shop and scrub the toilet and make dinner.  Those things aren't interesting, but they have real value to me in terms of feeling like I am bringing something to the world.

What I require is a better source of flow.  I am currently playing World of Warcraft a lot, and sometimes that brings me flow but a lot of the time it is just a time sink much like a TV show that is interactive but with a crappy storyline.  An enjoyable time sink, but not something that makes my life better, really.

I remember years ago I spent a ton of time modding Civilization 5.  That was a task that definitely brought me flow for a great span of time.  It was a combination of creating, analysis, and play that was superb.  Other times when I have been building games have been similar.  Perhaps that is what I need to return to - not any attempt to monetize game design, but just pure creation.  I need another game that isn't quite there to seize me and force me to fix it, tinker with it, make it perfect.

The easiest way to achieve this is to start a new game from scratch, I suspect.  In the past my games have always begun with a small moment of inspiration followed by months or years of grinding my way towards completion.

I suppose my conclusion is that I need an intense moment of inspiration, some moment of tremendous imagination, to give me a new thing to smash my mind against.  I wonder if that is a thing I can just create, or if it is simply random.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Low expectations, but not low enough.

I watched X-Men:  Apocalypse on Monday.  At midnight the construction crews outside my house were using some incredibly loud machine that was literally vibrating my condo from 12 floors away.  Since sleep was not likely to come to me I had to figure out something else to do.  The solution I came up with was to watch a bad superhero movie that I wouldn't mind quitting halfway through if the machine stopped.

I went into Apocalypse with low expectations, you see.  I knew the critics hated it.  I picked it because I knew I would be willing to stop watching it partway through.

It failed to meet my expectations, even then.

When I think about superhero movies that utterly fail I find they have many things in common.  They regularly try to shoehorn too many stories into the movie and end up with boring characters and rushed plot.  Apocalypse did this spectacularly.  It tried to have a character arc for Jean Grey, Magneto, Cyclops, Angel, Quicksilver, Storm, Professor X, and Mystique.  That doesn't even include the main villain!

Now I get that X-Men movies are ensemble hero movies, so you are going to have some amount of story spread around, but that was WAY too much to try to do in a single outing.  You need a couple characters that the plot focuses on that have good development and go through changes and the rest of the crew just does the thing you expect and fills out the background.  Trying to do too much just leaves every single interaction feeling rushed, unsupported, and deeply unsatisfying.

Directors should bloody well know this.  Studios that hand directors hundreds of millions of dollars to make movies should bloody well know this.  When there is this much money on the line, how does everyone fail so spectacularly at knowing basic things?

It wasn't just the heroes that were overdone though.  Apocalypse himself was a total bore.  Powerful villains can be fun even though the best ones are usually not particularly powerful at all, like Joker or Lex Luthor.  Unfortunately the movie portrays Apocalypse in ways that are absurd.  He can wave his hand and simply cause people's heads to fall off.  He can level a city and reform the smashed bits of it into a fantastically complicated, kilometer tall temple in a few seconds.  He can teleport, regenerate, empower others, control all technology, and turn other people's powers against them.  He can shrug off outrageously powerful physical, psychic, and magical attacks like nothing.

Worst of all though is his powers were unbounded.  Each scene the director granted him some new and completely absurd power that he would conveniently forget to use in the next scene.  Where were his instant death attacks and city smashing powers when he was in a fight?  Why didn't he simply teleport away when things got bad, or cause all of the X-Men's heads to fall off?

Apocalypse also completely lacked any personality or unique features.  He wanted to destroy the world for no particular reason.  He had no weaknesses, no individuality, nothing to make him remotely interesting or relatable.  Apocalypse wanted to destroy the world because he was a villain, and that is what they do, right?

Apocalypse didn't frighten me.  He wasn't interesting.  It was clear that his powers weren't a problem for the heroes to solve, but rather a plot device that was made up fresh every five minutes.

Speaking of powers that weren't used, the heroes were just as bad.  Quicksilver is a hero who can move so quickly he can casually walk around explosions while they are happening.  Not just that, but when a massive explosion is wrecking a gigantic mansion he is capable of rescuing 30 people who are all simultaneously a few meters from an advancing wall of flame in various parts of the building.

And yet he forgets to use his ability to save the day to stop the evil soldiers, rescue the lad in distress, or to easily beat up the villains threatening his less powerful friends.  He could have defeated the plot of the enemies and pounded them all into submission quite handily.  Apocalypse himself was apparently a bit too powerful for Quicksilver to defeat, but any other challenge the heroes found out about was utterly trivial... unless Quicksilver conveniently forgot about his powers, which he did whenever the plot called for it.

The last thing that absolutely drove me nuts about this movie was the way the characters themselves ignored the plot of the movie.  Just before the ending Magneto, empowered by Apocalypse, was busy destroying the earth.  He was simultaneously smashing every city on the planet to rubble, shattering bridges, knocking down buildings, sinking ships, and launching pieces of metal in random directions across the globe.  The mayhem he was causing would have killed millions of people.  He finally had a change of heart away from total global annihilation and decided to fight against Apocalypse instead.

Everyone ignored the genocide part.  As soon as the fight ended he was buddy buddy with the X-Men again, and everyone was completely chill with the fact that he was the biggest mass murderer in history.  MILLIONS dead at his hands, and the other characters just shrug it off without a blink.

Its cool.  He's on our team again.  Until, you know, he gets in another one of his moods and tries to wipe out humanity a second time.

How can you expect anyone to take your plot seriously when the characters themselves completely ignore it?  I get that you want to raise the stakes and use CGI to show us world landmarks being destroyed, but why pay for that CGI if the people in the world pretend that it isn't even happening?

What a travesty.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Put a contract on me

I sometimes read advice columns for entertainment.  Partly it is interesting to see how other people would solve problems and what they value but I can't deny that there is an appeal to seeing all the ridiculous situations people get themselves into and thinking "Wow, at least I don't have to deal with *that*."

I just read an advice column about how to cope with the desire for a prenuptial agreement.  The person writing in wasn't sure if asking for a prenup made them an awful person - specifically, "dead inside".

That question is funny to me.  I think most people get married wanting to have all kinds of magical happy feels and they don't want to accept the possibility of a divorce nor acknowledge all of the monetary issues that might crop up.

But you can't avoid the monetary issues.  This is why the government created standard marriage agreements that you enter into when you get married, like it or not.  They cover things like how assets are separated after a divorce and how much money people get paid when there is a disparity in income.

You *can't* get married without a contract.  You just have a choice of accepting the default, unavoidable contract, or you can custom make your contract to suit the people getting married.  Which is more romantic, a boilerplate, government mandated agreement, or something customized just for the two of you?

(Yes, I am trying to sell you on how prenuptial agreements are romantic.)

Most people don't need a prenup, of course.  But I think people would be a lot better off if they acted as though a prenup was a normal way of doing things.  Sitting down and going over everyone's debt, assets, income, and financial expectations prior to getting hitched is a fantastic idea.  We should all have that as our standard model.  After looking at all that stuff if you then decide that the standard model for a marriage contract is a good fit for you, great!  Maybe it isn't and you should build your own contract, but at least making an informed decision is an excellent idea.

I didn't even consider getting a prenup when I got married, but that was because Wendy and I came in with assets and earning power that were both extremely close to one another, within 20% or so.  Normally in a prenup there is one person with a lot more wealth than the other, and in our case that just wasn't so.  We actually talked about it before getting married and both of us thought it was funny that we were both perfectly comfortable talking about getting a prenup and yet our personal financial situation made it completely unnecessary because we randomly ended up in such similar financial circumstances.

Plus I was young and in love and absolutely certain that it wouldn't matter anyway because I certainly was going to be with her forever.  Which so far has worked out, mind, but one should be realistic.

But all of you out there, you should definitely consider a prenuptial agreement.  At least enough to figure out what your entire financial picture looks like, at any rate.  Know exactly why you *might* want one before deciding you don't, that is my advice.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The best of the worst

I have seen some interesting posts out there trying to convince me to to give money to the Conservative party.  That isn't surprising in itself, the interesting part is that the people trying to convince me are lefties who support the NDP or Liberals.

The idea behind this push is that there is one person in the Conservative leadership race who is distinctly more progressive than the rest.  His name is Michael Chong, and after looking at his record and statements I agree with that assessment.  He isn't a raving Trump-lite lunatic like O'Leary or Leitch, he actively pushes back against Islamophobia, and in general most of his positions are a lot more moderate than the rest of the Conservative crop.  From what I have seen I would rate him as by far the best Conservative candidate among those that have any chance of being nominated.  Don't mistake that for glowing praise; the Conservative candidates make me cringe.

The downside to the push is this:  I would have to pay $15 for Conservative party membership in order to vote for Chong for leader.  While I would have to hold my nose to go vote in a Conservative nomination I might be willing to do that to try to prevent one of the extremists being in charge, but I can't justify doing so when I would have to give money to a party that stands firmly against all of my values.

Looking at this from a strategic standpoint I can't really say what I want to happen.  I thought it was good that Trump won the Republican nomination because I was pretty sure he would say a bunch of idiotic things and get crushed in the debates by either Sanders or Clinton.  I figured giving Trump the win was a sure way to get a Democratic victory.

We all know how that turned out.  I was dead wrong, like a lot of other people.

So while there is a temptation to wish that O'Leary wins and goes on to alienate all of the moderates to keep the Conservatives out of power, for all I know he could end up running the show in Canada and doing his best to create some kind of theocratic dystopia.

Chong at least would just do the usual Conservative thing of trying to slash taxes for the rich and tell the poor that they should just work harder, with a side order of wishing he could realistically push through 'traditional marriage' and 'bathroom safety' bills.  He wouldn't be a flaming dumpster fire that threatens to engulf the world like Trump, he would just be a kind of slow death, a fetid rot, sort of like Harper was when he was in charge.

Even if I liked Chong (which I don't) I wouldn't give money to the Conservatives in a vain attempt to put him in the seat of power.  He is the best of the worst, sure, but I am going to save my time, money, and energy to push for someone I actually want governing, not a backstop against even greater disaster.

I am so bitter at the Liberals for their election reform lie that I am left hoping that the NDP can serve me up someone to believe in for this next election.  Not that my vote matters in the slightest, mind you, since my riding is an absolute lock for the Liberals and has been for many years.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Choose your friends wisely

My brother linked me a parenting article this weekend that talked about how parents should choose their daughter's friends.  The quote below the title is this:

We “helicopter” over our kids’ wardrobes, nutrition, sleep schedules, hygiene, science fair projects and then pride ourselves on how “hands off” we are on social issues.

When I read that statement my reaction is to think 'wow, these people really ought to stop helicoptering so damn much and just let the kid be'.  The author's conclusion was that parents should micromanage and meddle even more, carefully making sure their daughters circle of friends is firmly under the control of the parents.

To be fair, this article is posted on faithit.com, and from a brief glance at the writing there it is a safe bet I would be happy to set all of their articles on fire for one reason or another.  However, I don't think this is just an issue of religion, but rather one of feminist principle.

In the article the mother in question decided that her daughter absolutely had to be friends with a new girl in her class and forced her to start that process.  The story concludes with the two girls being good friends for years, which is fine and all, but I really worry about what message this sort of thing sends in the long run.

Women are socialized to be accommodating and nice.  They are expected to be the ones that smooth over social situations, putting their own desires after that of others.  There is already too much pressure put on women to let men get away with all kinds of crap and I really wouldn't want to contribute to that pressure.  When we say to a young girl that she must accept someone into her social circle, give them time and energy, listen to their story, and place their needs above her own, we condition that young girl to do the same in adulthood.

When these young girls grow up they are going to be subject to harassment from men who feel entitled to their attention, time, energy, or bodies.  Sometimes it is going to be catcalling, sometimes it will be sexual harassment at work, and sometimes it will be crappy behaviour at social events.  The message I want my daughter to have internalized is that she should be decent to people, but that she does not owe them friendship, love, relationships, service, or intimacy.  When walking down the street you have an obligation to not randomly punch people, but you do not have any obligation to sit down and have a chat with them either.

People do not have the right to demand your friendship.  It is all well and good to be pleasant to people at first, and to avoid being cruel to those who do not have a support network, but in the end you get to decide who your friends are.  Teaching children that others will decide who they associate with and that they should not expect to be able to set their own boundaries is a recipe for disaster in later life, both in friendships and in romantic relationships.

There is a crucial difference between encouragement and forcing.  When I have heard about other children who are struggling to find friends in school and I thought Pinkie Pie might enjoy their company I have encouraged her to talk to them.  If they are lonely then both children might really benefit from spending time together.  But I won't make her to do it.  I will give her the information, a bit of encouragement, and the freedom to choose.  Figuring out who to be friends with is tricky, but it is a thing everyone needs to learn, and you don't learn much with someone else making all of the decisions for you.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

I don't want to

Sometimes I have weird conversations with people about what I want.  I have this way of looking at my own desires that most people find totally bizarre and yet it seems so natural to me.  For example, awhile ago I was talking to someone about rock climbing.  They were trying to convince me that rock climbing walls in Toronto were great and I should go to one of those places regularly.  They sound great and all, I said, but evidently I don't want to go to one.

But rock climbing walls are so great, they insisted.  There are so many reasons to go!

I wasn't saying that I had good reasons not to go, just that I know about rock climbing.  It sounds interesting.  In the past I have enjoyed climbing walls.  But I don't go to them, despite this knowledge and experience, so all the evidence says that I don't want to go climbing.

To me this just makes sense.  I could go climbing, it isn't like we are talking about visiting the moon or yachting, both of which require resources I don't possess.  I just don't do it so my conclusion is that I don't want to do it.  Not for any good reason, mind you, but facts don't necessarily require good reasons.

I want to go to the gym and lift weights.  I can tell because I end up doing that.  I want to play video games and slay internet monsters.  I can tell because I do that.  I don't want to go climbing, because I don't do that.

To me it makes all kinds of sense to put evidence above subjective feelings.  I experience the feeling of wanting to go climbing, so in that sense I want to, but I don't do it, so I conclude that I don't actually want to.  I just experience a feeling of happiness associated with it.  I suppose that temporary feeling is weak, or short lived, and it isn't enough to convince me to schedule it into my day.

Normal people don't think like this.  They look at me like I have lost my mind when I talk this way.  They measure their wants based on their temporary feelings rather than on the evidence of what they have done in the past.  I get that this is the way most people operate, but it seems so foreign to me.  Shouldn't you use science to figure things out, even things like "how do you feel?"

I guess the answer is no, for the populace at large.

This is one of those ways in which I try to fit in when other people talk.  Most of the time I know that speaking like this will confuse, anger, or frighten the person I am talking to so I just pretend that I am a regular person and respond in ways that they expect.  I put on my person face and say things that make no sense to get through social interactions.  I suppose I am lucky that I can figure out what to say when I want everything to be smooth, even if I often choose not to say it.

I wonder which of the people that read this will nod their heads and say "yup, that makes sense!"  I suspect Sthenno will, but as for everyone else... I just don't know.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Just friends

Last weekend I was at a party where the subject of polyamory was discussed in some detail and at great length.  As often happens it took the form of me standing there answering a seemingly endless series of questions from a crowd of monogamous people.  In this particular case The Flautist was with me and that changes the tone of the questions substantially.  When it is just me there is usually an overtone of disbelief, mostly from the straight men in the crowd who don't quite believe that my life can be what I claim it is.

Most of the questions I get are some form of the questioner being sure polyamory must be dysfunctional and/or evil, and they try to catch me up in some manner.  This past weekend there was one person insisting that polyamory must not work because people need someone who will stay with them their entire lives and be willing to change their diapers when they are old or sick.  I find that sort of thing kind of hilarious because it is so obviously an attack of desperation.  People don't refuse friends because those friends aren't going to wipe their asses when they are 95.  I don't meet someone at a board gaming event and say "Wait, random board gamer #5.  You won't come visit me in the nursing home in fifty years.  Fuck you, I don't need you in my life!"  And yet somehow this is necessary for somebody I am going to go on a date with?

I don't always know how to approach that sort of question when it comes with a slick of vitriol.  For many people I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and answer their questions straight up, generally with the phrase "Just substitute 'close friend' for 'person I am dating' in your question and the answer will be obvious."  At some point though I really want to just stop them and demand to know what about polyamory has them feeling so defensive and desperate to justify their life choices.  It isn't actually that hard to tell the difference between someone who is curious about something outside their realm of experience and someone on a mission to discover my deep dark secret and reveal it to the world.

I wonder how I should decide when to switch from patient explainer to telling people to take their passive aggressive shit and stuff it.  For someone who genuinely wants to understand and has an open mind I have a nearly endless patience to explain.  Trick is, if I go all nuclear on someone who is being a jerk to me people then I get written off as the irrational, angry man who must then clearly be wrong.

My life is a privileged one, that I only have to deal with that particular bind in one way, and that I didn't have to deal with it until middle age.

The other really weird sort of thing that happens in this sort of situation is a hero worship sort of thing.  With me wearing a wedding ring standing there holding hands with the Flautist while we both sport a 'just fell in love ' stupid grin it is easy to see why other people would want a piece of what we have.  Usually it is the straight men who look at me like I am some sort of wizard who has broken the rules of the cosmos.  You would think bangin' people and falling in love by accident were equivalent to tossing fireballs out of my fingertips and flying.  They often act as though it is an impossibility for any mortal human to do these things, as if perhaps I was The Chosen One and born with some astounding power.

Hell, wouldn't it be a great super power to be filled with love all the time?  Better in the long run than being super strong or having invisibility or some other thing people usually wish for.

If I do have a super power it is the ability to not give a fuck.  I was not born with it, that is for sure!  My garden where I grow the fucks I might give was incredibly fecund when I was young and it took years of pouring poison on it to keep the fucks from growing back.

I want to get across that treating polyamory like magic is in fact the barrier.  When you just look at it as a choice with benefits and costs, smiles and sorrows, a thing anyone could do, suddenly it becomes possible.  These folks often say that polyamory sounds great and they would love to do it but their partner / parents / neighbours / extended family / coworkers / etc would disapprove so it is impossible.  It isn't an impossibility, just a cost, but they have been trained to see that cost as infinite, rendering all possible decisions incurring that cost as moot.

I get that for many people that cost is too high.  Fair enough.  But it is important to see it as a cost, a finite number, a thing that can be reckoned with.  How your reckoning ends up isn't a thing to me either way but thinking that you can do this whole polyamory thing if you want but after thoughtful consideration you chose not - all good!  Just consider, is all I ask.

And while you consider, I am going to go make a sign that says "replace 'girlfriend' with 'close friend' in your sentence and ask again" so I can flash it to people at parties to reduce my workload some.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Book burning

A Danish man is being charged under Denmark's blasphemy laws for burning a Quran and posting a video of doing so on the internet.

This is the sort of headline that gets my attention immediately.  It drives me nuts that someone could be prosecuted for the crime of not believing in someone else's fairy tale, but that is what is happening here.  Blasphemy laws are a disaster wherever they are found, in spite of the fact that what they do is make it so that if a bunch of people believe something ridiculous they can get the state to attack anyone who dares voice disbelief of the ridiculous belief.  It doesn't apply if beliefs are reasonable or provable, because that isn't religion.  Perfectly fine to insist that climate change is a myth, because we can prove that using science.  Insult the idea that a person walked on water and rose from the dead?  A crime!

Of course one must consider that the man in question will not do any jail time even if he gets convicted.  He will only be fined, in what I assume is the courts trying to placate the religious nuts without actually wanting to do something serious.

Perhaps I ought to be focusing instead on more serious events like war, or famine, or whatever it is that Trump did today.  You know, things that result in thousands of deaths and massive upheaval.

I don't though.  Trump said another disastrous thing, war still exists, people are dying.  But blasphemy laws in a progressive western state being enforced?  That is interesting, not least because it could very well be me getting dragged into court next time.

I suppose this makes it rather selfish of me to focus on this sort of news since it is insignificant compared to many other things I could talk leap upon.

However, I do think it is a good thing to keep in mind that we ought not to accept small erosions of our basic liberties in stride.  The freedom of expression of religion is important.  That includes the right to not be religious, and in fact to do the opposite of what other religions want.  When the state decides to recognize some religions and not others and is willing to prosecute people for following the wrong one we step ever closer to a theocracy, and that is an awful place for anyone who doesn't happen to be following the chosen religion.

People need to be free to talk about how their book is the literal word of the creator of the universe and post that message online.  Also people need to be free to set books on fire and post that online.  The state should have no concern about either, except insofar as people obey the laws about fire, of course.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Do as I say

I remember reading the Berenstain Bears books as a kid.  One of the standard plots was Papa Bear telling the kids to do something but not doing it himself.  A nice example of how it is hypocritical (and usually pointless) to tell people to do something while obviously not doing it yourself.

When I talk to Elli about games and winning I send the message that it is all about doing your best.  I want her to believe in working hard and giving her all, regardless of whether or not she wins or loses.  After all, there will always be somebody better than you at anything so there isn't any point in mourning your inability to beat someone with better luck, better genetics, or better circumstances than yourself.  You only have your own ability to work with, so best to maximize it.

Stoic philosophy agrees.  Heck, probably any reasonable philosophy that has anything to say on the subject agrees.  As far as I know the science also tells us that you can't do a ton to make your kids succeed, but convincing them to work hard is pretty much the best thing you can do, if you can manage it.

Everyone should focus on maximizing their potential, not on comparing themselves to others.

But when I compete... not so much.

I want to be number 1.  2nd place is the first loser, and I am not interested in being the first loser.

When I joined a new World of Warcraft guild recently they took me on a test run to see how I would do compared to everyone else in the guild.  My damage to the enemies was really good, and I logged #1 for the night.  People in the guild congratulated me, but I wasn't satisfied.  I was #1 on one section of the night by a huge margin and #4 on the rest.  In sum I was the top, but that wasn't enough to make me feel like I deserved it.  I played well, but some people beat me some of the time.  Everyone thought I was ridiculous for not accepting the 'title' for the night.

Not good enough!  It doesn't matter that I played well, or that I did as much as I could.  I must be first, always.

No matter how many times I tell Elli to focus on herself, to only worry about doing her best, I can't make myself believe it when I am playing games.

I am sure that working hard to do your best is the healthiest way to live for most people.  Makes me wonder though if that absurd drive to win is a necessary thing for those who are competing to be the best in the world.  If there isn't another player forcing you to push harder, if you only look at your own development, can you ever be the best there is?  I suspect not.

Being the best there is is a path to sadness, mostly, so I don't recommend it, but I think I might be programmed to do that anyway.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Arms made for licking

The other day I saw Wendy watching this video.


There are some very ripped men doing some challenging yoga poses and at the end they go upside down, their kilts fall down, and you get to see their butts.

Wendy was watching it with a look that clearly said "I really wish they would spill something on themselves so I could offer to lick it off of them."

I don't get it, not exactly.  I mean, I recognize that they have the kind of bodies that create that feeling in many people, but I don't get the feeling myself.

But I do want to get that reaction from people!

I don't want to do hours and hours of yoga each day though.  And I can't suddenly be 23 again, those 15 extra years are stacked on me and they aren't going away.  Also I don't have a video team sitting around trying to get the hottest possible shots of me.

What I can do is get bigger, so that is my goal.  As I have many times in my exercising kick I went online to see what the world could tell me.  Specifically I was trying to find out how far apart I should space my workouts.  I knew that the advice about how to work out was nearly worthless with advice being vague or contradictory or both.  Perhaps the advice on how often to work out would be better, I thought.

I was wrong.

The advice on how often to work out was 'as often as once a day or as seldom as once every four days, depending.'  Great, how useful.  When details were given they were couched in such uncertain language it was clear the author was desperately trying to avoid having actually recommended anything in particular.  However, every though each individual article was worthless, when I looked at all of them a trend emerged.  They were all referencing the fact that muscle growth occurs during rest and healing.  So I asked a friend of mine who is into weight lifting in a big way if the solution was to just wait until you stop hurting and then work out again.  He agreed, and said that you should work out again once your body has healed from the previous.

This is actionable advice!  Simple, yet flexible based on the individual situation.  Why weren't people telling me this, I wondered...

But a few seconds of reflection made it clear.  You could give really good lifting advice by telling people to find a weight that is challenging to lift, lift it until you can't anymore, take it slow and easy, and after lifting rest until you feel good again before the next workout.

No one is going to pay for that advice.  It is obvious, does not project any great expertise, and doesn't set you up to make money off of giving more advice.

I feel good again after a single sleep.  I don't need multiple days - the next day I am ready to go again.  This means that all I have to do is lift for an hour a day, every day, and then I will have arms that make people wish I spilled something on them.  I have a plan.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Universal Efficiency

I recently got to reading some articles about old economic predictions from economists in the 30s.

Stop laughing.

One of the most famous is Keynes' prediction that people would have dropped down to a 15 hour workweek by this point due to increases in efficiency.  We are way more efficient, as many people including Keynes predicted, but that efficiency hasn't lowered our workweek length.  There are lots of reasons, including that people like working hard and long at their jobs, and that our efficiency gains have gotten rid of jobs in factories but people simply expect even more services now than ever before.  Our watches are cheaper but we want more baristas, more therapists, and more entertainers, and their jobs aren't really improving in efficiency via technology.

We also adapt to new technology by simply having higher standards.  Better washing machines doesn't mean more free time, it just means we wash clothes more often than we used to.  Vaccuum cleaners have increased the standard of cleanliness of floors.  People change to demand more of everyone else rather than keeping the standards the same when new tools arise.

I think we should consider our way of distributing wealth as another major factor.  In the salary method we use now if I decide to work 4 hours a week I can't exist.  It doesn't matter that stuff is cheaper and that we are efficient, because a normal person working 40 hours a week has ten times as much money.  They have more computers and clothes and such, which isn't a big problem, but they also have 10 times as much money to spend on housing.  There aren't any places to live that are 1/10th as much as a normal apartment.  I don't just have less house - I am homeless.  That is going to be true no matter how much more efficient we get.  If I have 10% of the money of a normal person, my life is nonfunctional.  If I work 40 hours a week, a normal person can earn more than me by working longer, but they actually can't work that much longer, and they definitely can't work 10 times as long to price me out of the market completely.

That all changes under a Universal Income scheme.  Suddenly I am guaranteed enough money for a basic living.  My home won't be nice, but it won't be a box in an alley.  If I want to work 4 hours a week it will improve my situation, and I might do it, or I might not, but it is possible to live while doing so.  The pressure of competition is mightily reduced when my income is not proportional to the hours I work.

This is one of the arguments for a Universal Income policy.  Our lives have so much more than they used to but the benefits are deeply concentrated at the top.  Normal people can't actually make use of the gains in efficiency we are seeing because they have to compete so tirelessly against everyone else.

I don't think we actually want a situation where every year human society produces so much more stuff than the year before but everyone has to continue to work at pointless jobs to have enough to exist.  I think we want a society where increased robotics usage means people have more time to do what they want.  Maybe what they want is reading, painting, raising children, or writing cool code.  Maybe it is rock climbing or dating or learning a new language.

A world where people can pay their bills and still pursue these other things is a good world.  It is a world where we can honestly say that all the things our society is doing to make things more and bigger and faster is actually improving our lives.

Monday, February 20, 2017

The difficulty of understanding teapots

A few weeks ago I was having a conversation with Pinkie Pie about religion and belief in God.  We talked about some of the reasons for believing in God and Pinkie Pie brought up the Flying Spaghetti Monster, the One True God.  She found the idea of the FSM hilarious, needless to say.

I took the opportunity to talk about why the FSM exists as an idea.  I described how it was a response  to various specious 'proofs' of the existence of one god or another.  After all, there isn't anything to convince us that an omnipotent creator isn't a FSM instead of whatever other version of god people have cooked up.

I also talked some about Russell's teapot.  That is, I presume that there is a teapot floating out in space, perhaps full of warm tea with two lumps of sugar.  It is just far enough away from Earth that our telescopes cannot detect it.  Since you cannot disprove the existence of the teapot, I presume that it does exist.  Just like the FSM this is an argument that shows how silly the 'God exists because you can't prove he doesn't' line of reasoning is.  The burden of proof on someone making a specific claim that lies outside any observed phenomenon lies with the person making the claim, not those who would ignore it.

I thought I was so clever.  Teaching my child about reasoning and argument and debate.  Look at me imparting wisdom to a young mind and inoculating her against propaganda!

On Friday Pinkie Pie was watching Futurama with a friend of hers and the FSM came up in the episode they were soaking in.  Pinkie Pie then proceeded to explain the FSM and Russell's teapot to her friend.  What Pinkie Pie got across was that in space there is a giant spaghetti god and also a teacup full of tea with sugar.  The teacup is there, but also not there, and it is tremendously funny.

The part about the burden of proof didn't quite make it into her explanation.  Nothing about skepticism, science, or debate was covered.  Just hilarity and various foodstuffs in the cold dark of space.

There are days where I am convinced I am a good parent and teaching my child things is useful.  Then there are days full of giggles and space food and the crushing sense of impending doom that comes from knowing that these children are one day going to be running the world and the people trying to teach them about it are failing miserably.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Sex on the table in the restaurant, but only if necessary

I just saw this picture on Facebook, on a post about International Loneliness and Bitterness Day.


It made me want to call up my girlfriend and head off to a restaurant with her and my wife to get a free meal.  We would have a lovely time of it I am sure, as we all quite enjoy each other's company, and food just tastes so much better when you don't have to pay for it.

I can just imagine the manager trying to squirm out of giving a free meal.  I have solid proof of my marriage, but 'proving' that my girlfriend is such a thing is trickier.  We could have a good solid makeout session in the restaurant, but it isn't clear that this would completely convince them.  Obviously we could just have sex on the table after we were done eating, but that would definitely break some laws.

Wendy noticed me writing the first half of this post and commented that she really wanted to do this some day.  The free ride to the hospital is even useful because that could get her back to work without having to pay a transit fare.  Bonus!

In any case this sort of thing is the reason I yammer on so much about polyamory.  The assumption that if you have two romantic partners that someone must be getting injured is sad.  It isn't even reasonable in a monogamous situation as jealousy is not an excuse for violence.  Some day that assumption may wane, in which case the point of me bringing this up with vanish with it.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

A blade of pink

I have bought a fair variety of disposable razor blades over the years.  One odd thing I found was that the rate of replacement was independent of how regularly I shaved, and depended entirely on the passage of time.  If I shaved five times a week my razors lasted a week, if I shaved once a week I had to change the blade each shave.  Somehow my beard did a fixed amount of damage to the blade per unit time.

A few weeks ago I had run out of blades and had a fiercely itchy face so I decided to just use one of Wendy's razors.  I wasn't sure if there were actual differences between razors marketed to men and those marketed to women, but it certainly seemed like it would do the job.  I am not so picky.

Strangely it did a far better job than any razors I have previously used.  It was sharper, shaved more cleanly, and felt better than all previous versions.  Not only that, but I used it multiple times and it lasted a full month rather than a single week.

It isn't a savings in terms of waste because the new razor has a handle attached to it so I need to toss the entire thing instead of just the head attachment but it lasts four times as long so that seems worthwhile.  It is a savings in terms of money though because it is far cheaper to use pink razors marketed for women than the ones I have been using for years and years.

I wonder why this is.  Is it that pink razors also have stronger steel, better components, or some other feature?  Perhaps I just have a face uniquely suited to a razor mostly designed for legs and armpits rather than faces.  Is my face like a leg moreso than it is like other men's faces?

My impression is that many things marketed to women cost more than those marketed to men even when quality and design is the same.  There is a cost to having a pink box, as I understand it, purely for reasons of profit.

But my razor experience flies in the face of that.  Pink razors marketed to women are by far superior to all my previous options both in quality and value and I don't know why.  If anyone can enlighten me as to why this would be true, please do speak up.  Are men's razors a scam?  Is my face weird?  Why is this a thing?

Sunday, February 5, 2017

So much fire

I have been binge watching Game of Thrones this past week.  It is a hard show to watch, in that even when I know a favourite character is going to die it is difficult to watch the scenes leading up to the death, though the death itself is often easy enough.  Even when I know a high tension situation will result in the protagonist escaping I desperately worry about them dying nonetheless.

One thing I have noticed is that there is WAY too much fire in that show.

Everywhere anyone goes there are torches, candles, blazing braziers, and lanterns.  Somehow everyone has access to armies of people with nothing else to do but produce light for them.

Now I know that most of the characters are nobles who in fact do have armies of peasants producing things for them, but this is true even for those who are desperately poor and in dire circumstances.  Every library scene seems to have dozens of candles burning for no reason.  Every bedroom has lanterns going at all hours.  All kinds of nearly abandoned places have fires burning merrily at all times in every corner... who is chopping all that wood?!?

I know, I know.  It is for mood, for good shots, so we can actually see the characters.  With reasonable lighting in the scenes everything would be shadows, and we wouldn't be able to get the most out of gratuitous nudity if things weren't well lit.

But geez, do the writers have any idea how much effort it takes to get all the oil and wax and wood that the people in that world burn with no care whatever for how long it took to acquire it?  I know about chopping wood, and nobody would waste that much when they could get someone to do something else productive instead of flatten every forest in the nation.

I am fine with visions of the future, dragons, blood magic, and absurdly large ancient buildings.  But there is WAY too much fire in Game of Thrones.

Spend a few weekends chopping wood yourself and you won't be able to unsee it either, mark my words.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Evil hidden behind a mask

The Liberal party has officially given up on their campaign promise to implement electoral reform in Canada before the next election.  The Prime Minister has directed the Democratic Institutions Minister to not pursue electoral reform.

It is pretty obvious why.  The Liberals wanted a ranked ballot system because it would place them in an excellent position.  They are the centrist party so they would be ranked second on many ballots and likely end up in power a lot of the time.  However, people actually wanted a more proportional system instead and that would leave the Liberals as simply one party among many.  Under a ranked ballot they could assemble a majority government most of the time even with only 40% of the vote, but under a proportional system they would actually have to negotiate with other parties.

They don't want to negotiate, they want to be the natural, assumed leaders of the nation!

So they are going back on their promise.

I won't be voting for them again.  The campaign promise to end our First Past the Post system was a key part of my support and their obvious grasping for power being put above honouring promises and good governance is despicable.  I should note that I don't normally go so hard on a party for breaking promises because I honestly think they should reconsider their actions when new information comes in, but this was so transparently a power play that I have no tolerance whatsoever.  This isn't about doing the right thing under changing circumstances, it is simply placing the Liberal party above the will and well being of Canadians.

The Liberals may be making exactly the same mistake the Democrats did in the US so recently.  They are underestimating the public's desire for change and reform and are counting on fear of the extreme right to drive votes their way.  They hope that messages of tolerance and love will mask their political sins.

I don't want Canada to teach the Liberals the same lesson the Democrats just learned.  Electing our own version of Trump will be a wretched mess.  However, I will not be surprised if it happens.  They have lost my vote, and many others like me.

To the Liberal party, if you are listening:  Ask yourselves why you want to govern.  Is it to make Canada a better place, or just to fulfill your own desire for power?  If it is the first, then act like it, and you may earn my vote again.  If it is the second, then get ready to lose power again when a substantial chunk of the population notices the evil seeping out from behind the mask.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The machines are here

Every time the machines beat humans at something new there is a big kerfuffle.  It was a huge deal when Deep Blue beat Kasparov at chess years ago, and last year Go was finally dominated by a computer.  Now it is poker's turn.

There are many kinds of poker and various kinds have been beaten at various times but no limit heads up Hold Em was taken down just now, and that to me feels like the proper benchmark for computer dominance.

I recall when chess finally fell many people said that Go was simply too big, that machines would never beat humans.  They laughed at the idea of machines defeating the best poker players, because poker is so much about reading human expression and mood.  They were wrong.  The machines will beat us at everything.

And I do mean everything.  Not just mathematical games like Go, but far more difficult to quantify things like reading facial expressions and predicting behaviour.  They are even going to beat us at sex.  They aren't there now, not by a long shot, but eventually the robots will come for sex just the way cars came for carrying goods, computers came for chess mastery, and factories came for making shaped pieces of iron.  It is just a matter of time.

I am reading the Ancillary series of books by Ann Leckie, which is a science fiction series set in the distant future.  I recommend the series both as science fiction and as commentary on gender and sex, though the actual story and characters we never that compelling to me.  In it there are extremely powerful AIs that watch people all the time and learn their patterns by speech, facial expressions, and more.  They know when people are upset before the people themselves know.  This is going to be a reality given enough time because every time we have set ourselves the challenge to build a tool that will be better at something than a raw human we have succeeded, or are on the way to succeeding.  Reading and predicting human behaviour will be no different.

The idea of AIs watching me through myriad cameras and knowing what I think before I do isn't frightening to me.  Maybe it should be, but I honestly just shrug at the thought.  The machines already do pretty much everything better than me and my life is shaped by the rest of the world already so somehow it doesn't feel like it will be all that different.  Would machines watching me, trying to predict me really be that different from humans trying to do the same thing?  The only difference I see is one of efficiency.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Good Dad?

Today I tried to teach Pinkie Pie a lesson.  Not in an angry way, just in a learning way.  I might have taught her to be evil.  I can't tell.

Pinkie Pie has been watching a particular Youtuber called Dennis Daily.  She was desperately excited to look at his webpage and wanted to buy a shirt from it.  The shirts were fairly expensive, shipping was a lot, and they were in US dollars, so she was going to have to fork out nearly fifty dollars for the shirt.  This is more money than she has so she scoured the store on the website to find something, anything, to buy.

This is just not a state I get into.  I rarely buy anything that isn't food or transportation and when I do I go out to buy a specific thing I know I want.  I just don't get into a frenzy needing to buy something to satisfy my urge to consume.  Pinkie Pie does do this, and I think she is the normal one by far.

At any rate Pinkie Pie settled on a 'I <3 cats' mousepad.  With shipping and currency conversion it was going to add up to about $29, which seems ludicrous for a mousepad considering she already has a perfectly functional one.

So before ordering I typed in 'cat mousepad' into google to see what showed up.  Dennis Daily's website actually was in the top few on google which surprised me (I guess he is a bonefide celebrity, not that I would know) but also in the top few hits was Amazon.com.

Amazon has everything.  It turns out that in the set of everything there are cat themed mousepads, one of which was just as cute as the Dennis Daily offering.  Amazon, however, was willing to ship to us for a grand total of $9.

I don't like telling Pinkie Pie to skip out on paying the small scale content creator to buy from the multinational corporation, especially one that has a lot of sketchy business practices like Amazon does.

On the other hand I think it is a really good lesson that you should shop around a bit before actually committing to buy something.  In this case the shopping around took about 2 minutes and saved her $20 so it was quite worth it, particularly considering she gets $2.50 a week in allowance.

I don't know if I am on Team Good or Team Evil here.  I saved her money, promoted the faceless font of encroaching dystopia, taught her good lessons about being frugal, and failed to pay someone she wanted to support.

Maybe the lesson should have been "The ethics of shopping are highly complicated and making the right decision is difficult at best."

That might be a lesson for a few years down the road.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Nothing special, just The Rock

I daydream all the time.  While walking, while riding the subway, and especially while in a car.  My daydreams are pretty variable, as most people's are, but they really trend towards superhero type fantasies.

Sometimes I am just like Spider Man, superhumanly strong and fast, but not truly world bending.  I dream about fighting villains and saving innocents, about incredible adventure.

But other times I am more like Superman.  I am never so bland and dull as him though, my powers are bizarre and intricate.  Not all of the fantasy is about outrageous adventures against supervillains, because sometimes with world changing powers I take on real problems.  A ridiculous superhero of that power level can change governments, stop wars, and really remake the world.  What world leader could avoid at least nominally respecting someone who could simply flatten their home at will, with absolutely nothing that could be done to stop it?  The neat thing about this is often I try to figure out how I will cope with my loved ones being threatened once my super identity becomes known.  I am not silly enough to think that a tiny bit of cloth over my eyes will prevent facial recognition software, or just good old fashioned people's eyes, from figuring out who I was before I became super.  A superhero with nothing to lose and no attachments is far more dangerous than one who doesn't want certain specific people to be hurt.

Over the past year though my power trip fantasies have changed in tone.  I am still bigger than myself and have adventures I would avoid in real life, but instead of Superman I am just The Rock.  The Rock can't change the world, he can't intimidate world leaders, and he isn't invincible.  He could randomly pick someone up, hold them over his head, and then throw them through a window though and that is the sort of fantasy I have been having this past year.

This new style of daydream wouldn't require magic to make a reality, it would just need endless weightlifting, tons of steroids, and eating tremendous amounts of cod.  Just like The Rock!

Given that for the past year I have been working out a ton and getting a lot stronger we have a ready made explanation for why my daydreams and fantasies have suddenly shifted, but I wish I understood it better.  Being bigger and stronger has changed the way I feel around other people, and I have definitely noticed other people reacting to it.  I wish I could tell how much of it is physical change in my body and how much is the way I act.  Before I started all that though I certainly didn't expect it to change where my mind goes when I am just drifting, but it certainly seems to have done that.

Maybe it is that when I was smaller I felt like I wasn't "a big scary dude", the sort of person who could actually win a serious physical confrontation, and that I leapt right to magic for my fantasy fix.  Now I am closer to the The Rock template, perhaps I don't feel like being physically powerful is that far away, and I only need to reach a small distance.

I don't know, really.

But it is kind of neat to see how my unconscious perception of myself and what sorts of fantasies I come up with change with working out and getting big.  And it isn't as though I am suddenly gigantic - it is only a 7% change in body mass, give or take.  Yet that change has been enough to substantially alter the way I think in this way.

And all of that is kind of absurd no matter what because I still don't know the first thing about fighting and have no desire to do it in the first place.  That fact just doesn't seem to matter much to my brain when I am daydreaming though.

Brains are weird.

Monday, January 23, 2017

The greatest distraction

Trump is in office.  The world is soaked in concern about this.  My FB feed is full of it.  When I log into WOW public chat channels are clogged with people yelling about Trump.  No matter where I go I can't avoid it.

My social media is generally extremely Trump negative, largely because I end up friends with people who hate everything Trump is and everything he represents.  In less curated environments though, Trump arguments are virulent and I see both sides.  It is disturbing, for many reasons.

The main reason is, of course, Trump.  He could easily be a trainwreck for the US, but he could even be a disaster for the world.  He wants to nuke people as a matter of course!  But even beyond that it seems as though people seem emboldened to yell racist and misogynist things because Trump won, and that is another whole issue on its own.

But freaking out about it up here isn't doing me any good.  I can't do a damn thing about it, as I am not even IN the US, much less able to vote.

What I think I need to do is to try to avoid it as much as possible.  I don't want issues here in Canada to be ignored by me and mine just because the biggest dumpster fire on earth is blazing away nearby.

Canada's Conservative party has a new crop of candidates to choose from for their leader, and some of them are truly terrifying.

The Liberal party made a lot of promises during the election, and one of the most important, electoral reform, may get tossed by the wayside, largely because the Liberals think they might win more elections that way.

Awful.

There are plenty of important things to think about here, and I want to focus my energy on them, not on the easy target down south.  It is so obvious and simple to be enraged at Trump, but I don't think that it is something I should spend my emotional energy on.  He is a mess, I can't do shit about it, time to make sure I pay attention to the things I have more control over and which affect me directly.

And hey, if you haven't already called up your local Liberal candidate to demand that the party stick to its election promises, do that.  I did, and I felt good about it, because I know they actually pay attention when you get on the phone and are polite but insistent.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The price of sloppiness

Today I hurt myself while working out.  I was doing a one handed pull across my body and felt the muscle in my shoulder twinge.  It was near the end of the workout and I finished up, finding that the pain wasn't much and it didn't bother me doing the other exercises.  Tonight though, I hurt.  I got a massage and tried the hot tub and it is helping... but I hurt.

I know what I did wrong.  I have put on a lot of extra weight on that particular exercise because I was just cruising along too easily before, and I haven't got a good rhythm for it yet.  Tonight I was being sloppy and jerking the weight around too much instead of maintaining a good slow rhythm.

It is really tempting to do this.  I can make more weight go faster if I just move rapidly and jerkily, but then I end up doing this to myself and regretting it.  I need to go really slow and steady, and just accept that sometimes this means I won't be able to lift as much or do as many reps.  Breaks are ok, and they are far better than hurting myself.

I guess these are the lessons you have to learn over and over.  I know how I *should* do this stuff, but sometimes that good form gets lost in the attempt to just get it done already.

Being really consistent about this isn't just a matter of avoiding pain though.  It is also a matter of progress.  If I want to push harder, get bigger, and raise my numbers, I have to make sure that I don't break myself in the process.  Doing so will just slow me down and prevent me getting places.  I want this process to make me stronger, tougher, and healthier, not give me injuries I can nurse for the rest of my days!

I remember when I was a kid listening to the stories my dad's friends all told about their various surgeries to recover from football injuries in high school.  I vowed that I wouldn't be like those guys, sacrificing their bodies on the altar of entertainment.  I avoided football, but I need to keep that example in mind.  Lifting weights is a fine exercise, and healthy, as long as I don't get stupid.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Are you smart?

At a family event last week I was sitting beside Pinkie Pie when an older relative asked her the question "So, are you smart?"

She was taken aback, and didn't know what to say.  All she got out was a "Uhhhhh...." and stared down at the table.

Normally I try to strike a balance between just putting up with awkward questions from adults towards kids and calling people out but this time I definitely felt I had to step in.  Adults would feel that such a question to another adult would be extremely rude or at the very least ridiculous and I am quite sure it is just the same when a kid is asked such a thing.  What can the kid possibly say?

I turned to Pinkie Pie and said "Well, that is a hard question to answer, isn't it?  Because if you say yes people will think you are bragging, and if you say no, they will think it is false modesty or that you have no self esteem.  No good answers, are there?"

Pinkie Pie nodded in agreement.

I followed up.  "What you did was just fine.  When you are asked a terribly awkward question sometimes all you can do is say Uhhhhh, and that is okay.  Sometimes though you can try to handle it with humour.  You could point your finger up in the air and shout comically 'I am the smartest person .... IN THE WORLD!' and see how that goes."

Pinkie Pie replied that I could manage to pull that off just fine, but that she was sure she could not.

I agreed.  Her position is difficult, especially being the only kid at a table of adults, even more so when the questioner is an older relative she doesn't know.  Figuring out how to respond with humour to deflect awkwardness is a tricky skill especially in those sorts of circumstances.  Fortunately for me I am quite comfortable acting the fool in front of others, but I certainly wasn't so comfortable at her age.

The older relative who made the comment heard all of this quite clearly.  I don't know what they made of it, but they did remark later that I had quite a rapport with Pinkie Pie, so I guess that they weren't too offended by me basically saying that their question was absurd.

I wonder why adults act like this towards children.  I tend to try to treat children like people - people that have limited skills and experience, certainly, but people nonetheless.  Tell them a funny story, ask them what they do for fun, or just discuss things that you find interesting and see what they have to add.  But quizzing them directly in ways that leave them no good answers and which you honestly don't want the answers to anyway?  It boggles my mind.

Pinkie Pie seemed happy with my response to the situation and not particularly fussed about the whole thing.  In the end it was a good teachable moment.  Whether or not she took the basic lesson about responding to awkward questions from higher status people or the advanced lesson of flipping the table to make the asker of an awkward question feel awkward themselves is unclear to me.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Run, the nipples are here!

Naked Man made a post on Facebook today asking people how they would feel about their children seeing a topless woman in a movie.  He has been doing a series of parenting questions like this on all kinds of topics, and I am beginning to wonder if a part of his motivation is getting me all riled up to rant about it and get into fights with his other friends who aren't on the same page I am.

Obviously the answer is that there shouldn't be any differentiation between showing topless people based on sex.  Ideally.  But we don't live in an ideal world, and in the world we live in showing a topless female has a different result than showing a topless male.  The female in this case would be sexualized, regardless of how she acted, but the male *might* be sexualized but in any case it would be far less so.

That distinction doesn't matter to me though in terms of my response to this question, and indeed it is a ridiculous question to me.  I am naked around Elli on a regular basis, and I am perfectly comfortable with her seeing other naked bodies too.  The idea that a child would be corrupted by the sight of a breast is so absurd to me I can't even think straight about it.  Most of them spent between half a year and two years with their faces smooshed into breasts!  How is it that after that seeing a naked breast will be a disaster?

I don't pretend that I am immune to cultural conditioning!  I notice breasts, a lot.  I saw the movie Riddick recently and I recall quick clearly that there is a topless scene for the one female character but I find myself unsure if there is a topless scene with any of the males in the movie.  I don't think so... but would I have noticed and remembered?  Topless females stand out to me due to a combination of cultural conditioning, feminist principles, and my sexual orientation.  Whereas if a male had been changing into a new shirt and been topless at some point I am not at all confident I would have recorded that, and I suspect this is a common thing, and not just amongst those who are sexually attracted to topless females.

This doesn't mean that we should shelter our children from topless females though.  Even though society conditions us to see that as a sexual thing the correct response is not to give in to it and cover our children's eyes in such situations.  We need to do the opposite.

Okay, maybe the opposite is seeking out topless females to show to our children, and we don't need to do that.  What we need to do is model indifference.  Sure, there are some shirtless people.  Whatever, it is just people's bodies, those don't hurt us.

I don't stop at topless though.  Bodies aren't offensive.  Nudity should not be a crime, nor should people feel like nudity is an attack on everyone else nearby.

But in the world I actually occupy you can't show a breast in a movie without the censors clutching at their pearls and marking the movie as only acceptable for adults.  I won't entirely throw the blame their way either, as those censors are by and large doing what the public wants.  People are terrified of sex, and breasts are sexualized, and thus people feel they must be controlled and hidden and marked 'filthy'.

Which all sucks.  I think things are shifting my way, but I also don't think I am going to live long enough for them to shift as far as I want.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Feral spaceman kills people. Are you not entertained?

This weekend I watched Riddick, a futuristic action movie starring Vin Diesel.  It is the third in the series, though I didn't even realize that when I watched it and I didn't feel like I was missing out.  I really liked it until right at the end a scene went wrong and it bothered me enough to shake my happy feelings about the movie.  (Massive spoilers, in case it wasn't obvious.)



The film got pretty meh reviews, but the complaints everybody else had were largely different from mine.  Mostly people hated the dialogue and the characters, whereas I quite liked them.  People think Vin Diesel is a horrible actor, and they are completely right.  He is the worst.  But even the worst actor can be fun to watch sometimes, and Vin wasn't called up on to do anything interesting here.

In short, Riddick is violent, gory, and brutal.  It has great conflict between four different factions that shifts throughout the movie in ways that are satisfying.  Many futuristic movies totally screw up tech, but Riddick does it right.  There is tech but they don't try to explain how it works or make me cringe with pseudo scientific gobbledegook - the characters just use the tech naturally.  There are advanced cybernetics, energy weapons, FLT travel, and other toys but they fit into the movie smoothly, by and large.  It feels dirty and rusted, patched together, a lot like a western setting but with lasers - it reminds me of Firefly, and that is a good thing.

The conflict mostly takes place between a bunch of violent mercenaries on a deserted planet, so one might expect that the token woman in the film would be there mostly to get rescued.  There is only a token woman called Dahl, but she is a total beast who kicks people's asses.  When they try shitty cat calling, she beats them up.  When one of the bastards tries to rape her, she kicks his ass and acts like it was no big thing.  She also is a lesbian which is great because more queer representation in film is good, especially amongst the hardcore hetero male action movie set.

But.

Near the movie's end the shit is hitting the fan and Riddick tells people how it is going to be.  He goes on about who he is going to kill and how they are going to get away from the aliens, and finishes off with "And then I am going balls deep into Dahl, but only because she will ask me nicely."  It was a jarring because Dahl had already spent enough of the movie fighting off misogynistic crap from the evildoers, she hardly needed the hero presuming she will be available for sex too!

The plot continues, and at the end of the movie Riddick is being rescued by Dahl, pulled up a wire into a spaceship.  She grinds against him, then says "I want to act you something really nicely...." and we are left to assume that they run off to have sex as soon as they get into the safety of the ship.

This makes me grumpy.  You get points for putting lesbians into action movies as fighters, sure, but you lose ALL those points when you have them suddenly convert to being straight just because the male protagonist is so damn sexy.  It especially irked me because there was a superb way to finish that scene that the movie already set up!  Earlier in the movie Dahl says to a guy who is hitting on her "I don't fuck men."  All she had to do when rescuing Riddick was say "You know, you were right when you told us how things were going to play out.  Except for just one thing... I still don't fuck men."

Bam!  She gets to actually stay queer, the conclusion is nicely foreshadowed, and it is even a bit funny when the superman hero of the series actually gets it wrong.  It would humanize him a bit, and make him much more of a character, and less of a caricature.

I found a lot to like about Riddick, but it seems my misogyny detector is set higher these days than even before and stuff like this gets to me.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

For instant fun, just add people

Earlier this week I wrote about how people often overestimate how good other people have it.  They look at what others have, whether it be a relationship, experience, or object and figure it is an endless party.  When the jealous people actually get the thing they desperately crave they usually find out it isn't as good as they had thought it was.  This applies to owning homes (flooded basements), cars (replacing transmissions), kids (midnight tantrums), and sex (oops I bonked your ribs with my knee), and threesomes (oh no, that person has more impressive genitals than I do, how can I compete?).  That last one is what got people's attention.

In retrospect tossing in references to threesomes into a post about being realistic about what you want was going to get attention; I should have known that.

I got several responses to the post in person, on the blog, and on Facebook, and all of them were the same.  The responders generally agreed with my point that people often overestimate how much fun the thing they aren't doing is, but they all said that threesomes actually were just as good as everyone thought, and one person wondered why I said they weren't, given my enthusiasm for them.

There was also some bragging about how great their sex lives were on the basis of having great threesomes, and given my knowledge of the people involved I think the bragging was warranted.

So maybe I was wrong.  Or maybe I just wrote badly.  Possibly both.

Here is the thing:  I didn't write about threesomes not being as good as you think from personal experience.  My experience with group sex ranges from 'That was pretty fun' to 'I have never felt this good before in my life'.  My times with two men and one woman mostly cluster in the 'pretty fun' zone, and with two women it is more of the 'floating on a sea of bliss' type.

But I don't base my thoughts on how everyone works solely on my own experiences.  I have talked to lots of people about their group sex experiences and there are so many horror stories.  People talk about terrible jealousy and competitiveness and mind games.  They tell me about relationships ruined and having group sex because of pressure or guilt.  When I read about people's group sex experiences on sex advice columns or other internet sources there are tales of woe aplenty.

All of which led me to figure that there are people who have good times, no doubt, but that there are all kinds of disasters too.

I don't want to write advice based on my experiences alone.  It is clear I am a bit of an outlier in many ways, so I really ought to carefully consider how everyone else experiences a thing when I tell people what to do.  Yet maybe I give the wrong impression when I do this, and what people really need is my personal take on a subject, a catalogue of the things that happened to me and how I felt about them.  What would that look like though?  'Careers suck, don't bother.  Kids are hard.  Video games, super fun, do that all day.  Also orgies are great.  BAM!'  Is that really useful advice for anyone?

I suppose the real message I should have sent is this:  When you are desperately craving something someone else has, you should know that there is a good chance it won't be nearly as good as you imagine when you finally get it.  It will likely be as good as you imagine at times, but much worse at other times.  It might be great all the time though, or terrible all the time.

That message is true, but truth is random and messy and does not fit well on a motivational poster.