Thursday, January 30, 2014

I wish for data

Designing policy is a tricky thing, and the difficulty is radically increased when there is a lack of good data.  This is one of the reasons I dislike Stephen Harper so much; he actively resists using data and has made it a policy to defund, muzzle, or discredit science so that he can decide things without any pesky facts mucking up his ideology.  Reading my Facebook feed today really brought home just how hard it is to get good data to make decisions even when we are actively looking for it.  In particular people were talking about how many trans folk there are in the population.

The estimates in the thread ranged from 1 in 6,000 to 1 in 1,000 but it was pretty clear that nobody really knew.  A cursory search of the internet reveals that there is nothing like an accepted number but surgery rates suggest that 1 in 10,000 is way too low - other than that we just don't know.  Of course this is drastically more complex because before we ask this question we have to be very careful about what we are asking.  Some people identify as genderqueer, genderfluid, nongendered, etc. and while those are different than being trans they illustrate that gender is a slippery thing to nail down even if you can rely on people to answer questions about it openly and honestly.  Given how marginalized trans people are and how violently people react to gender absolutism being challenged we know the answers we get to questions aren't going to be reliably true.

Given how hard it is to figure that out I was amused at the thought of trying to figure out what percentage of people are gay or polyamorous.  At least for trans folk you have things like medical procedures and government change of gender forms that might let you count things usefully (you will miss a lot but there is *some* hard data to provide boundaries) but how would one even go about trying to count gay folks?  I know an awful lot of people that don't cleanly identify along bisexual / straight / gay lines, much less along the gay / straight binary.  How do you answer a gay / bi / straight poll question when you have had all straight experiences but would be open to a same sex relationship if the right person came along?

Poly people are even harder.  Do you count people who have cheated on the assumption that they want to be poly but can't be accepted as such?  (Hint:  This would not be a good assumption.)  It is similar to the other questions in that there are issues with being outed so the answers you would get would trend towards dishonesty.  Plus you have the added twist of people not even knowing they are naturally poly because they don't know what the word means or have never seen it in action which seems like it would be a lot more common than the analogous situation with the gay / straight or cis / trans questions.

Looking at the published data on such things tells me that the people doing the research have a major disconnect with the experience on the ground.  For example, if you look at Wikipedia you see a lot of big studies that conclude that bisexuality is something like 1% of the population.  However, when I look at data published by dating sites and experiences people have in that regard I notice that poly people identify as bisexual closer to 50% of the time.  The same sort of correlation also exists with BDSM.  It is possible that the three things are related directly but I suspect it is just that once a person comes out as being part of one sexual minority they have little reason to hide the other.  I can't say with any particular authority that trans folks are more likely than the average to be poly / into BDSM / not straight but I would lay a pretty big bet on yes, and by a lot.  I don't know that if our culture were suddenly completely free of discrimination against bisexuality that we would actually see a 50% rate across the board but it sure as *hell* is higher than 1%.

I have this ravening curiosity about sex, gender, and desire in the human population.  I want to know how all the people live, how they see themselves, what they want, and how they want it.  The trouble is that even a simple question such as "what % of the population is gay?" currently has no decent answer so my musings suffer from a shocking lack of reliable data.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

You know you are backwards when...

Here in Canada we like to think of ourselves as very progressive on social issues and we love to hurl abuse at the President of the USA in that regard.  We are looking pretty foolish these days when not only have individual US states legalized marijuana but the President himself admits to using it and says that it isn't a good idea to use it but it is obviously safer than alcohol.  Even Forbes (not generally known for supporting the hippy stoners, one should note) ran a piece about how The President forgets to lie about pot and the Prohibitionists are outraged.

It is so amusing to watch the folks who want to keep marijuana illegal reach for more and more ridiculous claims.  Marijuana is dangerous!  Totally, if you get a few hundred kilos of it, bale it up, and drop it off of a upper storey onto a person's head they will probably die.  Marijuana is bad for your lungs if you smoke it, just like cigarettes!  Yeah, because obviously people won't eat it, or vapourize it, or use a filter.  Particularly when big companies get involved they are going to produce easy, clean solutions for getting really damn high.

There is a bit of a disconnect between the governments and citizens of Canada and the USA at the moment.  Canadians generally sit far to the left of Americans in terms of policy but it seems like Obama is parking to the left of Harper.  Obama is much more of a hawk but that is because he can get away with it; Harper getting Canada involved in anything aside from peacekeeping is pretty much political suicide.  Obama too has deliberately spoken out in support of trans and gay rights too and Harper doesn't so much do that - presumably because he would happily roll things back to an earlier era in that regard but knows he lacks the political capital to do that.

The thing that really has me curious is how Harper will deal with the recent legal changes to prostitution in Canada.  He has a year to write new laws surrounding prostitution that are Constitutional but I suspect he will take the tactic of throwing his hands up in despair and verbally attacking the Supreme Court.  After all as long as he claims he can't do anything and that it is the court's fault that the nation is in moral decline he panders to the 'traditional values' crowd but doesn't actually raise the ire of progressive types.  It is a lot easier to be disgusted than actually wade in and deal with a regulatory tangle so I fully expect that will be his tactic.

The slow walk towards not ruining people's lives for their harmless personal choices continues.  In fits and starts, for sure, but onward it relentlessly grinds.  The millstone of getting high and hooking up, if you will.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Let them play

I rant regularly about how kids should be let out to do what comes naturally to them rather than be squeezed into structured 'safe' play.  Watching helicopter parenting and outrageous safety concessions at Elli's school drives me bonkers - some of this is city living vs. country and some of it is just a cultural shift in the past thirty years that makes me unfavourably compare modern parenting to how I was raised.  While keeping kids safe is a laudable goal and all I think at the moment we have embraced anything that restricts children's behaviour even if there is no concrete reason to think it will actually improve their life and health in the long term.

I found an article today supporting my view that children thrive in a much less structured play environment.  It talked about a reasonably large scale experiment in schools that got rid of playground rules and let children just get out there and make their own fun.  The thing that really grabbed me was that they let kids have a big pile of junk and play with it.  Old tires, wood, and a hose (plus presumably lots of other junk left uncatalogued) was left in a stack for kids to play with.  That sounds awesome!  I look at empty schoolyards today and am sad but a random stack of objects to play with, crawl under, and use in playing pretend sounds like a real attraction.  Build stuff!

The trouble with implementing this sort of thing is the desperate grasping for control that people want over their children's play.  People want to know that every object on a playground has been inspected, sanitized, and vetted.  This obsession is unnecessary and absurd - it does make sense to have standards for manufactured objects to ensure that they aren't seriously hazardous but there is no need to keep out any random thing on the basis that if kids eat it or hit each other with it somebody will be hurt.  I survived just fine living on a property with a sawmill, a quicksand pit, a river, and old broken cars and I was the better for having those things to explore.  Controlling everything a child experiences just stifles their natural creative urges and exploration.

I don't really expect this to take hold here as I think we would need a serious cultural shift before it would take hold.  Right now we are far more concerned about avoiding any possible harm than we are about doing the most good and that needs to change.  The goal of education should be to produce the best possible set of adults and should not be so tied up in trying to avoid legal action.  To do that we need fewer rules and a lot more piles of random junk to fuel young imaginations.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Logic is a fish, apparently.

My brother posted an interesting reply to my Sunday post where I talked about how I write and concluded that I should focus on hard facts and logic rather than rhetoric.  The point he brought up can be largely summarized by noting that rhetoric and salesmanship convince far more people to do things than irrefutable logic ever does.  Like me he wants to carefully reason out his conclusions himself but being a teacher he recognizes that getting the message across is usually best done with flair and presentation rather than the grind of rational reasoning.  Having been a salesman for years I know this for a certainty - enthusiasm and humour are far more effective tools of persuasion than truth ever is.

So why tell the truth then?  Why not just lie, or at least be sketchy with details and big on imagery?

First off I think that I should make logic posts because I am better at those.  I was always a good salesman but never the best because I wasn't willing to make things up or to alter my world to fit the world I wanted the buyer to see.  I always sat back a little emotionally when pitching and I am sure some folks detected that lack of buy in on my part.  I don't believe in the concept of fate or destiny or any such rubbish but I do think that I could reasonably say that if I do have a purpose in writing it is to reach those who want proof with their opinion.  It isn't that everyone should do this, but it is that *I* should do this.

The second thing I think is important is to consider a comparison of rhetoric and homeopathy.  It is entirely true that in the short term you can improve the health of patients by randomly dosing them with homeopathic "medicine".  The placebo effect is a powerful beast.  Unfortunately doing so confuses people into thinking that it actually works and this has a detrimental effect in the long term because the public loses the ability to distinguish between what is truly effective and what is just placebo.  In a way powerful rhetoric for a good cause is similar in that it achieves good short term results but has drawbacks in the long term.

Perhaps that parallel doesn't work.  Perhaps people truly don't get anything more out of ironclad logic than they do a clever turn of phrase and perhaps there just isn't any reason to try to do it right - maybe all we should be concerned about is the immediate results.  I know though that there are a lot of smart people out there who really are concerned with the truth and with error bars and the burden of proof.  Sometimes I am that person and I get something horribly wrong and get smacked in the face by the cold wet fish of logic.  There are people out there like me who get things wrong and search for enlightenment and those people need to be able to find the information they seek.  I, hopefully, can be one of the folks who can help with that.

Monday, January 20, 2014

The price of suffering

There was a terrible incident last year where a man in New Mexico was repeatedly anally violated and xrayed by police and medical professionals in a unethical and illegal search for drugs.  The search turned up exactly nothing and it turns out it was based on made up facts in the first place.  Just recently his lawsuit was resolved and he was awarded $1.6 million dollars in damages.  This is the sort of thing that brings out all kinds of strong opinions from people who think it is fine that the police do anything in pursuit of the War On Drugs to people who hate on police for pursuing the War On Drugs to people who just think it would be awesome to be repeatedly raped by the police as long as they get paid.  It is this last group is driving me bonkers today.

The troubles with this viewpoint are many.  First off it completely ignores the fact that the man was subject to several unethical medical procedures including multiple xrays which are usually pretty safe but are not risk free.  Subjecting someone to them for no reason is completely unacceptable from a medical point of view.  He was also subject to a colonoscopy which is widely accepted as one of the most painful medical procedures we know of and also carries notable risk of puncturing the intestine which would require immediate emergency surgery to avoid the death of the patient.  Even if you are sure that a particular person has drugs in their rectum there is no possible world in which these medical procedures are warranted.

The second issue is that we do not evaluate the reward of a lawsuit by calculating how much a person might demand to be paid for a vague facsimile of the situation.  Me agreeing to have a finger up my butt for $20 is *not* the same as forcibly confining someone, forcing them to submit to a finger up their butt, and then offering $20 in compensation.  The terror and suffering of not knowing when it will stop, of having no choice, and of being physically forced is by far the source of the problem, not the actual act.  When a person is raped under more expected circumstances we don't look to standard rates for sex workers to determine what to do to the attacker and the same principle applies here.

Lastly we must carefully consider what message we want to send.  Is it really appropriate to send the message to the police that we should just figure out an appropriate wage to pay the victim for his suffering?  Surely not.  The appropriate thing to do is to indicate that this event is so awful, so unacceptable, so wildly outside the bounds of what government can legally do that the reward must be enormous.  Of course we should also make sure that every medical professional and police officer who knowingly assisted this act (some refused) should be booted unceremoniously out of their profession and the whole lot should be subject to criminal prosecution.

It is easy to see how they went so far.  Like in a movie script they ended up realizing that they had done something terribly wrong and the only way out was to double down over and over until the situation went from indefensible to heinous.  What we must do though is to not make light of this event nor ask to be submitted to it ourselves for cash.  What happened was a tragedy and dismissing it as a good way to make money ignores the terrifying question of how often this has happened to others and how likely it is to happen to us.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

A very sneaky sort of compliment

Last week I wrote about how we should all use our words and try to talk one another out of behaviours that we disagree with instead of use the state's power and authority to inflict violence.  It was a short piece stuffed with plenty of repetition of the key phrase and lacking in subtlety and specificity.  I refer to this sort of post as a rhetoric post rather than a logic post.  Generally I rely far more on logic posts where I do my best to support my positions instead of writing things designed to have a single sound byte message.  The Use Your Words post was sort of like a doughnut - quick, sweet, but not particularly convincing.

Pounda took me to task and sent me a long message detailing some of the problems with my post.  The things he said were true but it wasn't as if he and I really disagree on the points he brought up; mostly he just pointed out how I was being sloppy.  Much like myself Pounda doesn't like people to make the right points the wrong way when there is a perfectly good right way to make them and he also doesn't like to agree with people if their arguments are shoddy.  To be taken seriously I should make my points correctly and precisely and make sure that they are clear and logically sound.

I choose to take this chastisement as a compliment.  It wasn't a "you suck" sort of message, but rather a "you can do better and you damn well know it" sort of message.  It is true; I can do better and I am glad there are people out there who feel like it is worth trying to convince me to do that.  Sometimes I find a turn of phrase I like or a message I want to deliver and I leap up on my soapbox and just cut loose.  It is hard to be disciplined enough to always say the right thing the right way, particularly when I have spent time reading the dreck that so often passes for reporting in the world of news.  This is, of course, because said dreck gets more views than anything that worries about error bars and the truth.

The fact is thought that the world needs more people to say the right things the right way.  There is a surfeit of emotional blathering, of style without substance, of sizzle without steak out there.  There is a need for people to write in such a way that they cannot be argued with, to communicate in such a way that their message is an unstoppable force.  Rational analysis that slowly and inevitably crushes the opposition rarely wins awards, doesn't often get much attention, and is much overlooked.  However, those juggernauts of reasoning do eventually permeate the public consciousness and evoke change, however slowly.

This reminds me greatly of one of my first (and most fondly remembered) posts.  I must take a deep breath and recognize that although the world needs the slick salesman Christopher Hitchens I am not at my best when I try to emulate him.  Rather I must channel Victor Stenger instead and be an unstoppable stone brick of logic.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

If kindergarten teachers ruled the world

There are a lot of lessons that ostensibly people learn in kindergarten that adults fail to implement.  The classic example is the mantra Use Your Words.  Kindergarten teachers say this constantly to the kids to stop them from running away, crying, hitting each other, throwing objects, or performing other useless or destructive acts.  Somebody wouldn't share with you?  Use Your Words.  Somebody wouldn't play with you?  Use Your Words.  Somebody said something nasty?  Use Your Words!  The kids eventually learn the powerful lesson that the appropriate reaction to someone doing something you dislike is to talk about it and come up with resolutions.

If only children could recall those lessons when they grow up and become adults.  Somebody uses a drug you don't approve of?  Use Your Words.  Tell them you think this is a bad idea, pay for a commercial to talk about how dangerous the drug is, give them a disapproving stare.  Use Your Words.  Don't toss them in jail or ask the state to otherwise use violence upon them.  The same goes for people having sex in a way that you disapprove of.  Upset that people exchanged money for sex?  Use Your Words.  Irritated that there are two similar sets of genitals in a particular bed?  Use Your Words.  Don't like that somebody doesn't have a gender expression that suits you?  Use Your Words.

Employing the machinery of the state to restrict or assault people who do things that offend your sensibilities is equivalent to a four year old throwing a punch or hurling a toy truck.  It isn't reasonable, it doesn't work, and it shows that you have yet to get beyond the state of mind of a toddler.  If you can't restrict yourself to using your words in these situations then perhaps a visit to a colourful room with a smiling but strict teacher in charge would do you a world of good.  We all need to get beyond the idea that when someone lives their life in a way that is strange or upsetting to us but which does not directly hurt us that we are entitled to stop them.  Just Use Your Words.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Dumb teenagers

No one can disagree that people are dumb and make bad decisions.  Being a teenager is a pretty good way to magnify the likelihood of bad decisions but thankfully it also grants a pretty good defence.  "I was a dumb teenager" is a tag pretty much everyone gets to slap on a few regrettable incidents.  When dumb teenage decisions negatively impact others we have a responsibility to impose some consequences on the perpetrators but we really need to keep our eyes on the goal.  The point of those consequences is not to ruin the lives of teenagers but rather to give them a nudge in the right direction.

This brings me to a recent court decision in Canada to convict a 17 year old girl of distributing child pornography.  The girl in question shared explicit pictures of another girl of similar age that were taken with consent.  She also sent a huge number of harassing messages and threats.  The sensible response would be to pursue normal prosecution for the threatening messages and then to simply move on.  Child pornography convictions should be reserved for the monsters who rape children not spiteful teenagers who share legally taken pictures of their peers on social networks.

This debacle really indicates that at the moment we have a real weakness in our criminal code.  If prosecutors want to try people for this sort of behaviour there should be some appropriate charge to use rather than resorting to the nuclear option of a child pornography charge.  I don't know what that charge would be but honestly it shouldn't result in anything more serious than community service.  Rather than go that route though I think we really need to just get over it and accept that this sort of behaviour needs to be dealt with either by unpleasant social consequences or parental involvement, not the courts.

Nude pictures are a real embarrassment for some people but the extent to which we flip out over them is really absurd.  The comments on the article I linked talk about how the the victim's life is ruined and that the perpetrator needs to have her life ruined as well.  It seems very sad to me that we deem a woman's life value entirely dependent on consistent body covering.  Modesty and its cousin chastity are fine choices and all but using them as the measuring stick for a person's worth is sickening.  Society does the victim no favours by telling her that the only thing of value she had to contribute was keeping her genitals from public view.

This is another example of absurd governmental response to minor crimes.  People so often speak of justice and yet I see no justice in spending a quarter of a million dollars to destroy a person's life.  Can we think of no better way to spend vast sums of money?  It is just as ridiculous to spend that kind of money to imprison people for smoking pot or exchanging money for sex as it is to toss this girl in prison for 'child pornography'.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Ashes to ashes

Our cat Ashes died this week.  It was something that was on its way but despite knowing that I cried an awful lot over the past couple days.  I wasn't really sure how I would react to the inevitable as Ashes and I were never friends and most of the time when I referred to her I ranted about how much she drove me crazy.  Biting my toes or jumping on me at night, barfing on the floor every two days, shedding on everything, sitting on my hands while I attempted to type or play games, and desperately trying to rush under my feet and trip me were the joys in her life.

And yet her passing made me really sad.  There is something incredibly powerful about losing someone you spent a tremendous amount of time around and I have been around Ashes as much as I have been around any human - depending on how you define it she could easily be the single creature I have been physically closest to in my life.  So while I didn't like her exactly and I certainly kvetched about her at length she was still important.  She was a presence I grew to expect and whose charms I took for granted.

I think Wendy was a bit worried about our visit to the vet as I am frugal to a fault and not known for loving our cat.  Yet when the vet presented us with a diagnosis of kidney failure and a $1100 option to try to extend Ashes' life it wasn't the money that impacted my decision.  It was a simple evaluation of what was right.  Ashes was in enough pain that she was starving herself to death, dying slowly and suffering terribly.  Trying a series of medical interventions not to cure her, but merely to extend the time she would spend among us by a few weeks or months, would be cruelty.  Ashes had made her choice and it was up to us to honour that choice and let her end quickly and without pain.

Goodbye furball.  You weren't my buddy but you were my comrade, my companion, and part of my family.  I will miss you, which surprises me as much as anyone.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Today I am a man

There is something seriously good and satisfying about fixing something yourself.  I have no objection to calling in the electrician when that is necessary but it certainly doesn't have the feel good vibe of cracking open the ole tool chest and making some inanimate objects bend to your will.  Today, I replaced a toilet.

The old one was seriously gross.  Man, what horrific messes are hidden inside our appliances and walls.  The new one is smaller, more powerful, more efficient, and has a pretty new seat that isn't the cheapest piece of plastic crap on the market.  Wendy assures me that although a man who does dishes is a sexy thing there is no sex appeal in installing a new toilet.  Potential plumbers beware, your job does not inspire a desperate need for sexytimes in your partners no matter what you may have previously been told.

It feels kind of funny to me considering the worlds that I bridge.  Back in Thunder Bay my family would consider this a trivial chore, the sort of thing any reasonably competent adult with moderate upper body strength should be able to do with ease.  After all, they are largely capable of building their own houses should the need arise.  Down in Toronto the reaction is a lot more of questioning why I didn't just get a plumber to do the work and wondering if I screwed it up badly and broke something.

I did break several things but all those things were part of the old toilet that was heading to the scrapheap anyway.  Knowing that the thing you are messing with is garbage makes the process so much fun.  Just pull and yank on things willy nilly and if they snap off just laugh and toss the bit away.  Being able to set aside the worry that I will accidentally break my stuff and have to buy all new stuff is a real benefit.  My father telling me stories of how my grandfather shattered a toilet by tightening the screws too fast certainly got me nervous at the outset, especially given how competent with physical objects my grandfather habitually was.

Another milestone passed, another adult issue successfully negotiated.  Hell, by the time I die I am going to be halfways competent at living.

Monday, January 6, 2014

It is so simple

Environmentalism frustrates the hell out of me.  I try to live a very low impact life but I still end up arguing against environmentalists on a regular basis.  Largely this is because I don't accept bad arguments regardless of whether or not I agree with their conclusions.  I am certain this makes me extremely annoying to many people, but it isn't as if I can be somebody else.  I saw a link today that attempted to give a bulletproof argument for acting to prevent climate change.  The argument boils down to a simple four box truth table with climate change being true or false on the side and human action to prevent climate change being true or false on the top.  Essentially he says that if we act to prevent climate change and it is real, we win.  If we don't act and it is false, we win.  However, if we act to prevent climate change and it is false we lose a lot of money, and if we don't act and it is true then civilization collapses.  Since civilization collapsing is a lot worse than losing a lot of money, we must act!

He certainly sets up his table nicely and I appreciate people trying to argue that we should act on climate change but unfortunately this is complete malarkey.  Climate change is not a yes/no scenario, and neither is our expenditure of resources to combat it.  We could, for example, try to keep emissions in developed nations at the same levels they were in 1980 and let developing nations rachet up their emissions to match ours.  Some people might call that 'acting on climate change' even though such a plan will do nothing to stop substantial temperature increases.  We could instead cut all emissions in the developed world by 80% immediately and prevent developing nations from exceeding those values and this would be highly effective at stopping climate change but it is completely impossible.

Realistically the situation is as follows.  Climate change is inevitable - scientifically it is preventable (we could all just commit suicide) but practically it can't be done.  However, climate change is not an all or nothing proposition.  What we can do is lower our emissions where it is easy and effective to reduce the overall impact and prepare for some change to occur.  The world has been warm before and will be warm again and with enough ingenuity, money, and effort we can carve a good place for ourselves in it.

We in the developed world can use a hell of a lot less power, fuel, and stuff than we do with virtually no impact on our happiness, health, or safety.  We can use government to force corporations to be environmentally friendly.  What we can't do is 'win the war' against climate change.  Instead, we can take small steps to make our world a better place in the future and we should do so even if 'positive incremental change!' doesn't make much of a rallying cry.

Friday, January 3, 2014

The Passion of the Sky

Last night I went out to a board game night to play Agricola.  Ziggyny was there, as were some other folks who are top notch gamers but whom I had not played with before.  We got to talking about Magic (back in the old days, when things made sense and children obeyed their elders) and I ended up bringing that topic home and chatting with Wendy about it today.  I went on a bit of a rant about how Magic is changing and what exactly they are doing differently that is making it so successful today and despite the fact that Wendy really isn't much of a Magic player she was very much into my blathering.  More than that, she wanted to know what it would take for me to play Magic again both in terms of time and cash. The answer is a couple grand and a few thousand hours most likely, which is a fair bit but certainly not insurmountable.

The trick is that Magic one of those obsessions that I must pursue either completely or not at all.  Like World of Warcraft I can't just dabble - my interest rapidly trends towards zero if I can't push myself to extremes.  The only way I can be involved in such games is if I am playing at a very high level, both competing against others who are excellent and writing as part of the community.  If I can't feel like I am working at my limit, being the best possible, and educating others to be the same, I simply don't care.  It is possible for me to have an interest I pursue in a sedate fashion but it sure isn't the norm and isn't especially fulfilling.

It isn't as though Wendy really wants me to start spending weekends away at Magic tournaments and throwing tons of money into rebuilding my collection.  She does seem to really like that flash of passion, that spark of zealotry, that sign of an obsession long lain dormant.  I think that is true of nearly everyone.  While people often describe their ideal partner as well rounded and being good at many things I believe the more attractive feature is a single minded pursuit of greatness.  There is something absolutely absorbing about watching someone who is a master of a particular thing and loves it deeply perform or even discuss the thing they do best.  Even if one knows nothing about the subject at hand that is hardly an impediment to enjoying someone else in the throes of flow.

Right now I am obsessed with Heroes By Trade, the roleplaying game I am making.  It is going well with much being written and two playtest groups going but it has the singular disadvantage of not having a community like the others games I have fallen into.  I don't have a group of experts I can chat with, people who are just as deeply involved as I am to urge me to new heights of mastery and creativity.  I am used to having a forum of experts at my disposal, whether it be on thedojo, civfanatics, or elitistjerks, where many folks with the same interest and expertise hang out day in and day out to bounce ideas off of each other.  I have a few people of course but there is a critical mass of folks that creates a constant community presence online that I don't think I can replicate until my game is much more widely spread.  It is a vexing challenge, for I do want to pursue this passion all the way to its inevitable conclusion.

Which is, of course, me being the author of an international roleplaying empire that has completely supplanted all others as the gold standard in fantasy roleplaying games.  Inevitable I tell you!