Monday, July 16, 2018

This is not your day

At the cottage this weekend I ended up in a contentious discussion about the police and queer people.  We got onto the subject of the Pride parade in Toronto and how the police are currently banned from marching in the parade.  Individual officers can march if they like, but the police aren't getting a float and they aren't allowed to be in uniform.

This is a good thing.

In an ideal world it would be great for the police to show their support for Pride and queer people in general.  But in an ideal world we wouldn't need a Pride parade in the first place, and in this non ideal world we inhabit the point of Pride isn't to give the cops a voice - it is for the queer people.

The tricky part about this conversation was that the people I was talking with are very pro police.  They have never had any trouble with the cops and they think of cops as defenders of the innocent.

It is easy to not have trouble with the cops when you are straight, white, cis, able bodied, neurotypical, and wealthy.  Not so much for people who aren't all those things.

These conversations don't seem likely to go anywhere useful, but I won't back down from them.  This is especially true because Pinkie Pie and friend were there listening and I will not allow them to think that the police are correct in demanding a place - at least not without hearing a proper counterpoint.

I talked about how the infamous Toronto gay bathhouse raids were only a few decades ago, and many people marching in that Pride parade were treated abominably (and illegally) by the police in those raids.  How can you ask that someone make space for their abuser like this?

Then they brought up that homosexuality was still illegal back then.  I wasn't at all sure it was the case, but I hate to argue with false information or guesses.  So I looked it up, and as I had thought the bathhouse raids took place in 1981 and decriminalization happened in 1969.

Armed with my new certainty I brought it up again at the next meal and made it clear that the bathhouse raids back then were not law enforcement - they were state sanctioned violence, enacted because of hatred and bigotry.

I am never quite sure how hard to push this stuff.  I made my point, there was a long, sustained silence, then the topic got changed.  No one argued with me further, which is a good thing, but nobody apologized or said that they had been mistaken either.  I know that these conversation are unlikely to convince someone with boatloads of privilege and decades of submersion in pro police culture.  It will probably be written off as a few bad cops, nothing to worry about now.  I also don't know if Pinkie Pie was even paying attention.  Does she get the message I am sending?  Is she just thinking about Minecraft and wondering why all the adults are being tense?

No way to know.  I know I won't sweep it under the rug, and I know there is no point yelling for hours.  Where I should land between those two points though, I can't quite suss out.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Bash those genitals, stat

At Polywood this weekend I had a discussion with a few people about whether or not it would be physically possible to have sex with all the people.  That is, would it be possible to have sex with every living person on the planet?  If so, just how fast would you have to have that sex in order for it to work?  Would those people be coming in at you so quickly that it is merely inconvenient, or are we talking about sonic booms being created by onrushing sex partners?

Time to math.  And by math, I mean make all kinds of guesses and approximations and not worry too much about rounding errors.

First off we have to define sex.  Sex is widely variable of course, using many body parts, but I am going to just assume for my first approximation that it involves bashing groins together, since that is a pretty common form of sex.  The world has roughly 7.6 billion people, and I am going to guess that 2/3 of them are able to consent to sex, which is 5 billion.  I don't want to spend too much time on this, so let's assume I need to get it done in a year.  No holidays though, I am not a slacker, but I do need 8 hours of sleep a night.  I don't need time to eat, as I can just do that while the groin smashery is going on.

So, with 365 days available I have to have 'sex' with 239 people per second.  I will assume each person has to move 1 meter in towards me, move back and forth 10 cm three times, and then get 1 meter away again in the allotted time.  This gives them an average velocity of 620 meters/sec, or a cool 2233 km/h.  This is closing in on Mach 2, which means that every person doing this is going to be generating massive sonic booms with every bash of groins, as well as their movement.  Also just getting 239 people per second next to me is a major problem logistically.  Even if you could somehow get an infinite line of people walking 239 abreast, when they get close they suddenly have to accelerate to the above speeds, and setting up a situation where you have an infinite line of 239 people walking abreast is a massive undertaking on its own!

Another major problem is that this is assuming average velocity.  People are, in this simplification, making instantaneous changes in velocity and we know you can't do that... acceleration takes time.  This means that it is certain that their maximum speeds are going to be drastically greater than that, likely capping out around Mach 4.

Now we get to the real problem - the G forces on the people involved.  If you are moving at 4466 km/h and then have to decelerate to 0 m/s within a space of 5 cm that is a LOT of Gs.

And by a LOT, I mean 1,500,000 Gs.  Now there is a lot of debate over exactly how many Gs a person can survive for a really short time.  Maybe it is 50.  Maybe it is 100.  But what we are sure of is that 1.5 Million Gs reduces a person to a fine red mist instantly.  There is no 'sex' because all that happens is a bunch of miniscule organic particles fly into me at enormous speeds and I am killed by some combination of nano missiles that used to be a person and shockwaves.

Okay, so given that this experiment would destroy every person within hundreds of meters of it instantly, let us try to back it off a bit.  Let's assume I have thirty years to complete my sexual journey, I start with the oldest people first so they don't die before I can 'sex' them, and I have sex with five people simultaneously using a variety of body parts.  This decreases the required speed by 80% for the additional sexing outlets, and another 95% because of the increased time allowed.  (This is a guesstimate based on the fact that more people come of age given that this takes a lot longer so I have to have more sex than before.)  That gives me a 99% reduction in speed for the incoming bodies, which hopefully reduces the lethality of the situation.

99% is a big reduction, right?  It solves all the problems!

Not so much.  One advantage is that people moving this way are no longer creating sonic booms as nobody is breaking the sound barrier.  This reduces our destructive potential greatly.  It also means that you only need an infinite line of people walking twelve abreast, which is *way* more manageable.  Still requires some logistics, but it should be possible with enough money and effort.

The trouble is still the G forces that those people experience.  150 G is drastically smaller than 1,500,000 for sure.  It even puts us close to the survivable level of G forces, given that the times involved are extremely short.  But going back and force with those levels of Gs is going to paste your brain to your skull and kill you, even if your skeletal structure can stand the strain.  Is it possible that a human survives such a thing?  I suppose, but I think the expectation would be that everyone involved would die.  I think the corpses would remain intact, largely speaking, but I would expect near total fatalities.

Given that, I think you would find it extremely difficult to convince people to take part in a serious effort to have one person have sex with all other humans.

There are other techniques you could employ to make this go better.  You could collect all the voyeurs in the world and just have them watch and call that sex.  You could assume you have longer to live, or decide that you are only doing this with people that want to (which pretty much solves the problem immediately, really.)  New assumptions mean new calculations.  However, given my basic assumptions we can safely say that you absolutely cannot have sex with all the people in the world in one lifetime, even with an outrageous apparatus to support it and nearly infinite money at your disposal.

Sorry to disappoint.

Poly in the woods

This past weekend I went to Polywood with Wendy and The Flautist.  Polywood is an event whose name is appropriate and evocative - it is a bunch of polyamorous people getting together camping in the woods.  It has been going for three years though this is the first time I have gone.

The event takes place at Raven's Knoll, a small private camping ground in Ontario.  The grounds themselves were kind of new to me as I am used to provincial parks and backcountry camping but this park was something quite different.  Instead of campsites being really separate and carefully marked it was just a mixture of open grassy areas and woods.  We could set up anyplace we wanted, and that was new to us.  While it was a strange setup, I liked it.  We didn't pick the best spot for our site, but now that we know the location we will do better next year.  Raven's Knoll has a great river for swimming, slow moving and warm, and the weather was absolutely ideal.  Unfortunately the river had a bible camp just upstream so skinny dipping was out of the question.

But all that sort of stuff is background, really.  The interesting bit is what exactly did all those poly people get up to in the wilderness?  From the writeup I wasn't quite sure what to expect.  It was clearly pitched as a family friendly event with lots of talks and socializing, but I have met a lot of poly people and I am definitely not the only one who thought 'orgy in the woods!' when I read about Polywood.

Some degree of hooking up with people happened, I am sure, but the event was really about learning and community, and not about the orgies.

That whole learning and community thing went really, really well.  The best talk I went to was one about Relationship Anarchy, where I learned that RA is pretty much exactly the things I believe.  I suspect I am not a normal looking RA type - being a straight cis man married to a woman who I have a child with isn't really the standard there.  RA is about setting aside the relationship escalator and pushing back on all sorts of relationship norms and rules that society sticks us with.

There is nothing wrong with being married, or being straight, or having kids, or any of that.  The problem (as far as RA is concerned) is the assumption that you should do these things, or that those things are any better than the alternatives.  RA insists that we should refuse to place romantic or sexual relationships first by default, and that we should find our own ways express our feelings rather than simply doing the thing we see in romantic comedies and in greeting card shops.

I love all of that.  Everything in the RA talk seemed obvious, correct, and helpful.  Over and over it said "Figure out what things you want and do those.  Refuse to let societies norms push your relationships into boxes that don't work for you.  By the way, here are a bunch of ways that it tries to do that.  Think about them."  Here is the RA manifesto, if you want a far more complete version of what it is about.

All this made me think that maybe I should relabel myself.  Polyamory does describe me in the sense that I maintain and an open to multiple loving, romantic, sexual relationships at once.  It is accurate.  However, RA is more specific and honestly more precise.  I think my life looks a lot like what people imagine when they think of polyamory, but the philosophy of RA appeals to me more, especially when I consider all the poly styles that I find troublesome.  It is tricky sometimes to figure out what to do in this situation, because polyamory is more useful as a shortcut when discussing with random people (as RA is a more niche term) but among people who really understand both I would rather be known as a RA practitioner.  I intend to think and write a lot more about this in future.

The pushback against assumptions was baked into Polywood in a big way.  When people introduced themselves at talks we all stated our pronouns.  The people running the event stated up front that all gender expressions and identities, all sexualities, and all relationship styles were welcome and accepted.  Consent was talked about often and explicitly.  All of this was superb, and it made the space feel like a spot where people could relax and be themselves.  The pressure to conform, and the pressure of worrying that people were leading with assumptions faded.  It will never be gone entirely, of course, but Polywood was really successful at beating those assumptions back.

It wasn't perfect.  One woman lead off her introduction with an obvious unicorn hunting scenario, and that is all kinds of icky.  There were other views there I wasn't happy about.


The levels of unhappy I harbored were tiny compared to the rest of society.  It wasn't just a pile of people with identical ideas to my own, and so surely some of those other people disagreed with my ideas just as I disagreed with theirs.  But all of the ideas were close enough to my own to make the space in general feel welcoming and happy.  I learned a lot, met some fantastic people, and I want to go again.

And maybe next year I will see about arranging to combine learning and community building with an orgy in the woods too.  Because I am greedy like that.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Oh those Millennials

I saw this on Facebook the other day and I just had to yell about all the wrongness:

This thing highlights so much wrong.

First off, the idea that generations of people are easily categorized and share many characteristics is laughable.  All those articles about millennials doing X are foolish clickbait, whether they are praising millennials for something or blaming them for being feckless and lazy.  People have thought that the generations after them are ruining civilization since the beginning of recorded history, so pretty clearly that line of reasoning is nonsense.  Everyone writes about how young people these days are ruining marriage, unwilling to work, don't respect their elders, and have no sense of responsibility.  Drivel, all of it.

But this meme, attempting to be a counterpoint to the vilification of the young, is also ridiculous.  You really think this, today, is the worst of capitalism?  Do you know about the days when 8 year olds would work 14 hour days in rooms without a window, only to collapse and then wake up again the next day to repeat it?  Do you know about union leaders getting their houses burnt down when they asked for basic safety standards?

Don't even get me started on police brutality.  I am not at all pro police.  Hell, if I have to choose I will take Fuck the Police over A Thin Blue Line as my tagline.  No question the police do some bad shit, particularly when it comes to people of colour.  But police violence today is a bouquet of roses compared to what it was in times past.  The Toronto police were at one point completely disbanded and restarted because they had become totally corrupted and were nothing more than hoodlums who attacked political opponents and at one point watched firemen burn down a circus, doing nothing.  The firemen burned down the circus because clowns jumped the line at a brothel!  (History is AMAZING.) 

Shit like that is crazy, yes, but it isn't just a couple crazy incidents.  Do you think police arresting a black man and accidentally killing him would even ping the radar of the mainstream media 150 years ago?  I know about incidents like that all over the Western world, but back then they were so common I probably wouldn't have even known if it had happened two blocks over.  Just because the internet tells you about terrible tragedies does not mean they didn't happen before the internet - it is just that all the Trayvon Martins and Philado Castiles died without white people like me ever finding out.

These days the police are crying because they want to show how sensitive they are by having a float in the Toronto Pride Parade and they are upset that they got turned down.  (Turned down for good reasons, I should add.)  The world isn't perfect, but it is undeniably better than it was.

Let's be blunt.  Millennials aren't especially bad.  They also aren't especially put upon.  The world here in Canada is better than it has been for centuries.  (Or maybe ever, depending on your definitions, but centuries for sure.)  The Millennials are a group that grew up with the internet.  That is pretty much the defining thing about them, when compared to earlier generations.  They had more stuff than people before them, and they also had slightly better air quality, health care, and life expectancy.  But none of that stuff is what people whine about when they complain about Millennials, nor is it what Millennials like to bring up in their own defence.

Millennials, you aren't special.  You aren't particularly good, nor particularly bad.  But neither are the Boomers, or Gen X, or any other random group you create by putting endpoints on a timeline.

Let's all stop with the vacuous generational generalizations and just accept that both broad criticisms and compliments about such groups are silly.  Then we can get back to something we do agree on, like which side of the political spectrum is right and which is wrong.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Bad God

The other day Pinkie Pie woke up and wandered into the kitchen to chat with me.  She opened up with "I don't think God exists.  But if God does exist, he is a jerk because he gives people depression and anxiety."

Heavy start to the morning, that.

I talked to her about how her statement is a common argument against the God of the Bible existing, because yes, either God chooses to allow suffering for no reason, or God cannot stop it, and that makes that version of God either a jerk or powerless... and the God of the Bible is not powerless.

I guess I have raised myself a confirmed little atheist.  (No one is surprised.)

Despite me being pleased about her conclusions, I felt angry. 

Not at Pinkie Pie, of course.  Rather, I was proud of her for figuring this out and happy that she blamed her struggles with mental health on chance, fate, biology, whatever, but happily not on herself.  I am sure she does the same thing most people do which is to sometimes blame these problems on herself and sometimes on the universe at large.  We aren't good at apportioning blame.

But I wish so much I could fix this.  I wish I could fight it, and her suffering makes me scream inside with the want to do *something*, anything, that will stop it.  Anger surges up at the world, at this suffering that must be endured, suffering that I am responsible for but cannot remedy.

At least she knows what it is that she is experiencing and has words for it.  At least she knows she can talk about it with me, and is willing to come for help.  These are good things.

I want so much for their to be more good things though.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Dream chasers

I have watched a couple documentaries this past week about MMA fighters and bodybuilders.  It is always interesting to me to examine the extremes that particular cultures will go to when you examine the most ardent members of those cultures and these did not disappoint.  The shows were full of examples of champions bragging about their victories, desperate to convince the world of their superiority, and down on their luck people struggling to stay in the game despite losses, injury, and despair.

It makes me think that chasing your dreams is a terrible way to live.

Probably more accurately, chasing the wrong dreams is a terrible way to live.  Looking at this reminds me of the Stoic philosophies I read about a lot years ago.  One of their core ideas was that you should strive to compete against yourself, not against other people.  There is no happiness that comes from measuring your self worth by how many people you defeat - there will always be people that beat you, no matter what you do, and then you are betting your happiness on random chance.  You might lose via your opponents cheating, you may lose by genetic lottery, or you might lose by any number of other instances of pure back luck.  Why stake everything on luck when you don't have to?  Measure yourself against yourself, and no one else.

All the people in these documentaries who were struggling to defeat others in competition got their quick highs of victory, but then they had to deal with crushing defeat.  They also inevitably end up broken, damaged, and out of the game.  The ones who actually seemed happy were always those on the fringes of competition, just doing a job.  The people that found joy in these communities seemed to be the trainers, judges, referees, and other behind the scenes types.

The trainers didn't end up getting an injury and then spend years desperately trying to get back into fighting shape, suffering constant sadness and frustration, to inevitably fail anyway.  They just did their job as well as possible and lived their lives.

I have made this choice in my life.  I could have chased Magic, poker, or professional game design, trying to make it in a field full of desperate people.  I don't think that is the way to be happy though. 

There are times when the shining lights and glitter of stardom pulls at me.  I absolutely get the appeal of being one of the names that everybody knows.  But the world isn't fair.  Even if I was excellent in terms of skill and work, even if I gave it my all, plenty of other people are too.  There would be any number of reasons why I could and would lose even if I do everything right.

I am not special.  I have talent, sure, but there is nothing in the world guaranteeing my victory.  The fact that I am the star of my own story means jack shit to the universe at large.

When I look at people like those MMA fighters and bodybuilders I see desperation and misery.  They struggle so hard to fill a hole in themselves and they refuse to see that no matter how many wins they rack up that emptiness will never be gone.

Pick something you love.  Do it a lot until you are great at it.  Become the best at it that you can be.  Forget about how good other people are at it, because that doesn't matter.  Stake your happiness on the striving, not on the victory, because striving is something you can succeed at forever.  Beating your opponents is not.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Put the shotgun away

When I think about Pinkie Pie eventually dating people my mind is filled with images from movies and shows where a teenage girl's father brandishes weapons and menacingly threatens the boys she is going on dates with.  Of course Pinkie Pie may not be dating boys, or at all, but this is what springs to mind when I think about it.

It is horrible, really.

I read a great article about this and it agreed with my views on the subject completely.  The idea that I must threaten people she cares about and chooses to associate with is insane.  Just as absurd is the idea that I should explode with rage should her heart get broken.  While I would spring into action to defend Pinkie Pie from some kind of physical assault I find the idea that I must get revenge on anyone who causes her heartache completely absurd.

Love hurts.  Sometimes it hurts just being there, and it usually hurts when it ends.  That is just a part of the price of being vulnerable and seeking big wonderful feelings.  Figuring out how to navigate that is a part of growing up, and there is no room in that education for angry fathers bent on revenge.

It is practically inevitable that she will feel hurt, cause pain to others, and have relationships that are messy and messed up.  Welcome to humanity.  While I do not wish her to be abused, I know that meddling directly in these sorts of things isn't going to help, and if anything it will hinder her growth.

I know plenty of adults who haven't learned how to navigate protecting themselves while opening up to other people, and I have a distinctly non scientific sense that parents inserting themselves into people's relationships helps create these problems.  You gotta suck, fail, and suffer to figure that shit out, is my experience, and you learn best when you make the decisions yourself and cope with the fallout.

So I won't be caressing a shotgun or sharpening an axe when Pinkie Pie's first romantic partners meet me.  I won't make veiled threats or overreact when they do something stupid and hurt her feelings.  All you can do, if you want to help your kids, is love them and pick them back up when they fall.  Even if blustering threats worked to prevent pain, which it doesn't, it is a shitty thing to do.