Sunday, March 29, 2015

Dodge, Duck, Dip, Dive, and Dodge

Today I took Elli and one of her female friends swimming at the local pool.  Generally things went great, with the notable exception of the two girls taking forever to change so I ended up standing on the pool deck shivering for an extended period while they goofed off in the changeroom.  Two kids is definitely easier to deal with than one because they play and make up stories and such together and don't rely on me as the sole source of entertainment.

There was one really weird thing that happened while we were in the pool though.  The friend gave me a nine year old impression of a sultry look, said "Ooooh, naked man" and tried to tweak my nipple.  I just backed up, ignored it, and moved on, and nothing of the sort happened again.  It left me quite uncertain of how I should have proceeded though.  Clearly ignoring it isn't a *wrong* thing, but was it the best thing?

I felt like maybe I should have used that opportunity to tell her about touching without asking.  I couldn't come up with any way to start that conversation though without having to define why exactly it was fine for us to wrestle but not to tweak nipples.  I didn't look forward to standing in the pool attempting to define what makes sexual advances different from other physical touching, especially for a kid not my own!  For one, her parents might really object to me delivering such a lecture, understandably so, and for two I don't really know her and I wouldn't have a sense of where to start.  Knowing what your kid knows and how to best get across challenging concepts is important.

There is a more general problem of how you discipline kids who aren't yours that is tricky but which other parents have always been supportive in.  Generally the vibe I have experienced and seen is that parents accept whatever discipline other parents hand out as long as they normally trust that parent to act reasonably.  "When you are at their house you play by their rules" is pretty much the norm in my life.  Incidents that involve sexual overtones are lot more powerful though and can be complicated by lots of feelings and clashing visions of how sex is portrayed.  I see this event as just an indication that the kid in question knows that such things get a reaction and is looking for attention.  She doesn't need punishment, just guidance, and definitely doesn't need a 'sex is bad!' lecture but just an understanding that this isn't something that she can do right now.

However, her parents might have information that totally changes this equation.  I think that this means that I need to let them know, but it is an awkward conversation to have.  "Yo, your kid totally hit on me, eww" isn't the kind of email you want to write, yanno?  I don't want to appear to be blowing it out of proportion because no harm was done but it seems like a thing I should mention.  Its all very complicated, basically.  Parenting tends to run that way.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A traitor!

I was reading this article about politics in Canada, specifically our Green Party leader Elizabeth May criticizing the government's war policies.  She thinks that our current Conservative government is far too willing to get involved in ill defined conflicts without useful, achievable goals.  I agree completely.  War is never something that should be entered into with gusto, nor with vague goals of bashing the enemies.  It needs to be something we do reluctantly to achieve specific things, and those things need to be something we can do in a short timeframe.  Interminable warfare without a good exit strategy is a disaster.  The comments after the article though made me sad because I got to see some of the people on *my* side and what a disaster they are.

For example, some people called our current leader Stephen Harper a traitor.  There are a lot of problems with traitor as the ultimate insult, particularly that it puts nationalism at the peak of moral behaviour.  I can't stand that attitude.  People are important, not countries.  Setting that aside though this is a terrible way to think about it.  Pretty clearly Harper is not a traitor in any literal sense but he also isn't a traitor in some theoretical way either.  Thing is, an awful lot of the people in Canada voted for this guy on the basis that he is pro war because they like the idea of going out there and bashing the baddies even when a cursory examination shows that to be futile at best.

Though I am comfortable characterizing Harper as evil it is pretty clear he isn't betraying the values of all Canadians.  He betrays the values of many Canadians, certainly, but all leaders do that.  You can't please everyone.  The problem is that there are a great number of people that are okay with heinous loss of life to no avail as long as it takes place far away and they can be satisfied that bad people are being thumped.  Who exactly designates those people as bad rarely seems to enter into the equation, which is a big part of the problem.  Bloody vengeance against imaginary boogeymen has a real appeal to many people, much as I would wish otherwise.

What we should say is that our military should not be involved in conflicts without a clear purpose and an obvious way out should we no longer feel that being there is improving things.  We should not give in to the notion that people in other countries are less deserving of life than us.  What we need to do is change the minds of Canadians at large so that they will make it clear with their votes that such things will not be tolerated in future.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The rubber stamp

I read a very sad article today about the Health Canada process for approving medicine.  A show called Marketplace made up a new medicine called Nighton (anagram for nothing) which had no active ingredient.  They sent in some photocopies of old texts and got it approved for sale in Canada.  No testing of efficacy or indeed any kind of plausible pretext of how their product even could be effective was necessary.

This sort of thing drives me up the wall.  Somehow the government regulatory body has been tricked into thinking that their job is to rubber stamp anything that comes across their desk because not approving it risks making somebody upset.  People out there want their sugar pills dammit, and they want them stocked right next to the medicine instead of in the candy aisle where they belong!  It isn't simply about proving that a product doesn't kill people because that isn't good enough.  All you accomplish by letting 'harmless' products through the process is to have people take those products instead of actual medicine and that is demonstrably harmful.  Products that get regulatory approval should have to prove both efficacy and lack of harm.

Not to say we should outlaw homeopathic remedies.  They are useless but if people want to make them they should be allowed to do so.  However, they absolutely should not be regulated as medicine nor given any sort of government approval any more than one teaspoon of castor oil at bedtime should be.  You want to take your fancy placebo?  Fine!  But it should not be sold in the drugstore next to the stuff that actually works and the government should have no part in convincing people that it is a valid alternative.  Let us create an environment where a clueless person looking for medicine can easily figure out what stuff has been found to work and which stuff is snake oil.

Monday, March 16, 2015

The other side

I have been reading the famous WWII book With The Old Breed.  It is an account written by an enlisted marine about some of the things he saw in his time fighting against Japan in the Pacific theatre of war.  It is remarkable because he talks so clearly about the small things that stood out so clearly to him rather than focusing on the grand sweep of tactics or trying to tell a particular tale.  It isn't a story with a plot, but instead is a series of small anecdotes designed to give the reader a sense of what it would be like to be in his place.

While the story itself is full of incredibly racist, sexist, and violent people it is still a powerful story of how people react to terrible suffering and fear.  Thankfully the author seems to me to not be writing it to make people think of the Japanese as evil and the Americans as great so much as trying to explain the things that happened to him.  He describes the awful things that occurred because of the war, which certainly includes the hatred of the soldiers towards their foes, but he does not try to make the reader believe in the righteousness of his comrades.

It is not a pretty story.  The author speaks about fellow marines desecrating corpses, accidentally killing one another in confusion, and falling to pieces under pressure.  He describes the horror and extreme mental pressure of being in a war zone under constant bombardment for extended periods and makes it clear just how little the people who weren't under such pressure understand the reality of the war.

This is the sort of story anyone who thinks we should just go to war to solve problems should read.  War isn't about moving pieces on a map or calculating strategy - it always comes down to terrified people inflicting trauma and death on one another.  No matter how noble the goal eventually the result is a great number of people who thought their cause was virtuous dying in agony.

One thing that makes me wonder though is how the story would be told from the other side.  In the battle that occupies the first half of the book on the island of Peleliu the marines that attacked suffered horrendous casualties.  They lost over half of their initial strength of 9,000 soldiers, though the majority of those were injuries rather than deaths.  All told roughly 1,250 marines died in 30 days of fighting.  The Japanese defenders numbered about 11,000 but by the end roughly 97% of them were dead.

It would be horrible to sit in a hole all night, exhausted beyond measure, trying to stay awake in case a Japanese soldier armed just with a bayonet snuck into the hole to try to kill you.  But what would it be like to be that Japanese soldier, tasked with attacking an invading army with a single blade?  Even if you kill one enemy your task is not complete as you are expected to kill again and again until you die.  How would it be to sit on a patch of land knowing that your comrades go out into the darkness to their certain deaths, knowing that your side will never surrender and you are going to fight and kill until you finally succumb.

If anyone knows of such a book that gives a first hand account of being on the other side of that same conflict I would love to read it.

Source of picture:

Friday, March 13, 2015

Two Minds, One Game

I have been playing World Of Warcraft quite a bit lately and have been examining it through the lens of my two personalities.  Passion finds WOW, particularly doing challenging raid content in WOW, to be thrilling and wonderful.  When I am able to sink fully into the experience and let Passion run the show playing WOW is a great experience.  As with most things Passion is happiest when slamming into a difficult challenge with nothing held back.  I think the primary reason behind this love is that The Director has no need to worry about what happens if Passion plays too hard.

When playing board games I want to use every possible tactic to win.  Passion wants to use the technique known as Popeing where a player tries to convince others to do something beneficial for the player in question.  Often it involves talking about how other people are winning, or pointing out strategies that benefit both of them but not other people.  I know that most people don't enjoy it when I do this so The Director has to stay in charge to keep things under control.  The game is still fun, but it is even better when Passion is in charge completely and no tactic is out of bounds.  That rarely happens in board games.

In computer games the pixel opponents do not have feelings.  They do not care if they win or lose.  All they do is try their best to kill me and my job is to destroy them in any way I can.  Passion can hurl me against my opponents with reckless disregard and The Director can be deep and silent, confident that Passion is having a grand time and nobody is being trampled in the process.

That describes much of my struggle in this regard really.  Passion wants to be unleashed, to attack, to scream and shout, to be a berserker.  The Director knows how much joy will come from that, but refuses to let Passion be in charge when it would be destructive to those around me.  This is true right from sex to games to socializing.  There is always a constant internal battle between duty and mad fervour.

It has been good for me to have that outlet, to experience the rush and intensity of Passion's zeal.  I know that when I can do that on a regular basis I feel better about everything and WOW provides a great way to find that.  Wendy notices this too, the sense that I have a deep well of satisfaction that comes from pursuing activities like this.  It gives me a reservoir of happiness that lasts throughout my day, even when Passion is quiet and far away.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Nonexistent Negative

In terrible arguments on the internet lately I have been seeing the words 'reverse racism' used far too frequently.  It is a phrase generally associated with white people who complain about how everyone is being awful to them because they are white - usually because they are being really racist.

These arguments could be ended much of the time by simply defining one word properly:  Racism.  It means one of two things depending on who you talk to.  It can either mean a person being discriminated against because of their race in an individual incident or it can mean widespread, systemic discrimination based on race.

The first thing is something everybody gets to experience.  There are definitely times in my life that people have given me the stinkeye because I am white or treated me unpleasantly.

The second thing is something white people don't experience.  I don't feel like cops are going to treat me like a dangerous criminal just because of the colour of my skin.  I don't have the sense that I will be thought of as less reliable or less capable because of race and I doubt I ever will.  Systemic, constant racial discrimination is not a thing white people deal with.

So now we come to reverse racism.  If racism means a single incident, then how can reverse racism be a thing?  It is just racism against a white person under that definition!  No reverse about it.  If racism means systemic oppression then white people absolutely do not experience 'reverse racism'.  We still dominate government, business, and other leadership positions.  We still are treated better by law enforcement, in job interviews, and in casual interactions.  We are, as a group, vastly more wealthy than people of colour.

Reverse racism isn't a real thing.  It is a made up concept for people who don't want to recognize the advantages they have based on their race.

That doesn't mean that white people all have it easy, nor that they never experience racial discrimination.  They just don't experience it the same way people of colour do and that fact is indisputable and supported by a mountain of evidence.  We should of course have sympathy for anyone in difficulty regardless of race but we must recognize that systemic racism exists and then do our best to prevent it.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Another world

I am back into playing World of Warcraft.  Strangely enough it was at Wendy's urging - she seemed to think that I needed focus, direction, something to give me that sense of achievement.  Most people default to the assumption that my spouse must be grumpy that I play games so they tend to be floored when I say that mine encourages me.  This is why my posts have been somewhat sparse as of late - somehow writing about the world is less urgent because it occupies a smaller place in my mind.

It has been a strange sort of trip back into another world that I inhabited to constantly and deeply for years.  I feel almost as though the real world is fading, like my real life is a fake and the real world is the one I inhabit while at my computer.  I am keeping up with all the things that I need to do but much of what I do for fun here and there is crumbling in the face of my desire to slay monsters and take their shiny stuff.  I get the shopping done and cook dinner but when it comes time to maintain the web of relationships I occupy I find it hard to put in all the time necessary to see all the people I want to see.  The smaller, newer, more tenuous connections fade away because I simply do not have the energy and time to put into maintaining them, much as I might wish otherwise.

I am finding new community though.  For years I played with my group of real life friends, mostly game geeks from the University of Waterloo, but by and large they have quit WOW and are focusing on things like children and jobs and other distractions in the 'real' world.  For the first time in a long time I had to go out and find a new group of people to play with.  I put up an ad, essentially a resume of both my personality and my playstyle, and although it took awhile for someone to approach me about it I found what seems to be a really good place.  It is full of people that seem to have a lot in common with me both in terms of playstyle, skill, and life situation.  I wrote my ad without trying to embellish anything because I figured that I want a guild that actually wants me and I seem to have hit on it.

Perhaps all you have to do to find people that you can have fun with is to find a random spot on the internet and talk about who you are and what you want.  At least, that seems to have worked for me.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The reason for the boxspring

The reason my last post was a stub offering a free boxspring is that we have finally found a longterm solution to Elli's room being a disaster.  She has long wanted a bunkbed so we decided to use it as a bribe to get her to clean up some.  4.5 hours of cleaning later we gave four bags of toys to a local childcare and put six small garbage bags of junk down the chute.  Then she got her reward:  A bunkbed from IKEA with a ton of storage underneath and a nice desk space.

We went to IKEA to see their other offerings but she was having *nothing* to do with them.  This one has pink drawers, see, and that is a feature that cannot be matched.  It is an odd thing for both Wendy and I because both of us seem to actively chafe under gender roles and norms and yet Elli is absolutely enraptured with doing all the girly things.

And that is great!  I am glad she feels happy in doing those things and happy in being a girl.

It isn't that I object to her acting girly, just that I wish she didn't so obviously take her signals about what is feminine from the toy aisle at ToysRUs.  Her decision that pink things are the only things she should own isn't based on her actually liking pink particularly, it is just that she has received the message that pink is associated with girls and so she buys into that wholly.

She doesn't accept gender stereotypes much in general, so it isn't as though I am worried about her sticking too close to expected norms.  She is convinced that gender has no bearing on what things you can do, who you should have relationships with, or what you should want.  Those lessons that come from both home and school seem to have sunk in.  She, however, is utterly certain that pink is the only thing that matters to her and so she will select all of her possessions with that in mind.

Which, in this case, worked out okay.  The set gives her all kinds of extra storage and room to work and I think it will be great for her.  Sometimes you get the right thing even when your selection algorithm is ... questionable.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Free single boxspring

I have a single size boxspring that is available for free to anyone who wants it.  It is structurally good, though a little worn from six years of being in a child's room.  If you want it you need to come and get it quick since I want it gone fast.  Email, FB message, call or txt, whatever.

Why I have this boxspring available will be discussed in another post when I am less beat.