Monday, December 26, 2016

Christmas is Facebook

There is a real problem with Facebook and other similar social media.  People set up images of the life they want to project to the world and when other people view their posts and pictures it seems like everything in their life is perfect.  Pictures of amazing restaurant food, expertly framed, along with smiling children and gorgeous vacations fill the airwaves, and when we compare our own lives to the lives other people seem to be living they never measure up.  Of course when you actually look at the real struggles people face their online profiles are never an accurate representation.

Christmas is so often the same.  I see so many people and have conversations with them that just barely scratch the surface and everything initially seems so great.  But when I get into deeper conversations or get the full story from talking to others things rapidly change.  I hear about struggle and strife, sadness and silly choices.

It isn't as though everyone is setting out to lie!  They just want to put their best face forward, to forget the bad, to celebrate the best things that happen.

But holiday celebrations have the same effect Facebook does whether we want it to or not.  The hard parts, the sad parts, get squished away, hidden behind a smile.

I wish it was otherwise.  I want to hear about the struggles, the hardships, the messes.  This brings me closer to people.  It makes me actually understand their lives in ways that happy pictures of the highlights never does.

But Christmas, like Facebook, seems like it is never going to be that way.

I liked the Christmas celebrations I attended this year.  I just wish they were heavier on hard truths and lighter on pleasantly passing the time.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Benching the stack

Back in high school the standard of being strong was benching the stack.  If I recall correctly the stack was 250 pounds, the largest amount of weight you could put on the bench press machine in the workout room.  There weren't many people who could bench the stack, obviously, and I certainly wasn't one of them.  I would have been able to lift only half of it, I suspect.

Today I am strong enough to bench the stack.  I did my benchpress reps on 180 pounds tonight, and although my machine only goes up to 200 pounds my ratios from earlier on suggest that my maximum press should be 250 now.

It is funny to me how these totally arbitrary standards have such significance.  Why should I care that I passed a benchmark that is twenty years in my past, and didn't even matter back then?

No idea, but I am totally stronger than most of my highschool peers were back when I was 18!  Rawr!

Silly as it is, it feels great to hit that number.  I don't look different than I did six months ago as far as I can tell but my strength has been slowly increasing.  I had thought that I had hit my maximum and plateaued back in the summer when I was doing 160 pound reps so for months I just did the same weights without thinking about it.  Just recently I realized that my reps were easier than before so I pushed my weight up, so it seems that although my gains are drastically slower I am still on the way up.

I have no idea where it will end.  I haven't increased intensity aside from increasing my weights, but I am still seeing small scale results over time.

Now I need a new arbitrary round number to aim for.  The easiest is to just work towards doing my reps on 200 pounds as that is certainly achievable but will take time and effort.  I suppose at some point I should really get into a gym that has a bigger stack on their machine so I can find out if my calculations are right about my maximum weight, because for some reason I want to know.

Friday, December 16, 2016


Today a friend of mine posted a puzzle on Facebook.  It was a challenge where you have to solve a puzzle and there are penalties if you get it wrong.  It went like this:

I just changed my profile picture because I lost a challenge, and now I have to have a llama profile pic.
Solve this riddle...
It's 3am, you're sleeping and hear the doorbell. It's your parents there for a surprise visit (because apparently they have nothing better to do at 3am), they wanna have breakfast. You have strawberry jam, honey, bread and cheese. What do you open first?!
Don't forget to answer by private message do not put it in comments. If you answer correctly I'll put your name in the comments. If you're wrong start looking for a llama pic to put as your profile pic for 3 days.

I answered "The door".  I have seen this riddle before, and that was the answer.  I was informed that I am wrong and the answer is "Your eyes".

I didn't buy that.  If the question had been "What would you do first, from the first moment of hearing the doorbell?" then the eyes answer would be fine.  But when you are given a time and other information the question of "What do you open first?" should be taken as going forward from the last point of established conduct, not a question about what you have already done at an unspecified moment in the past.

I argued the point, but the person in question wasn't super interested in getting into semantic arguments about this silly FB riddle.  Probably sensible.

However, I have since realized that my answer was in fact wrong.  So was the one my friend supplied.

The correct answer is "My bottle of whiskey."  If your parents are knocking on your door at 3 AM looking for breakfast then this is definitely the right response, because things are right fucked up.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

A holiday tradition

It is a holiday tradition for me to be curmudgeonly about Christmas.  Not the holiday itself, which is a good reason to visit my parents and other family in Thunder Bay, but all the stuff surrounding it.

Especially the songs.

I was listening to Christmas music in the grocery store tonight and was of two minds.  Of course they were playing non stop Christmas music, which I hate, but at least they took traditional Christmas songs and put twists on them.  Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer played in a funk/folk kind of way is better than the standard version, I think, but the song itself still make me want to grumble.

The message of "It is okay to be born different from others.  Eventually you will find some unique utility for your difference, and then other people will accept you.  If you don't... get used to being alone and abused, I guess?" isn't exactly one I can get behind.  If the other reindeer accepted Rudolph because it is the right thing to do I would be cool with it, but they were only interested in being decent creatures once he was indispensable.  Yuck.

And seriously if we are going to make up random crap about Christmas we shouldn't start with a peeping tom old man who threatens to punish everyone all year with unclear rules and then gives everyone presents, but the rich kids get the best ones.  How is this a good thing?  Vague threats with no follow through, rewarding those who need it least... this guy is the worst parent around.

If stores want to play Christmas music on Christmas Eve, Christmas, and Boxing Day then fine.  I don't want it, but fine.  But good grief can we please stop with playing it for a bloody month?

To make that happen I probably need to start complaining as much as the people who demand Christmas music would complain if it stopped being played.  There are just so many stores though, and I want so little to spend my days in them yelling at managers about music choices.


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Much ado

Being a juror wasn't as interesting as I had hoped.  In the back of my mind there were fantasies of courtroom drama, shouts of "OBJECTION!", witnesses reduced to tearful confessions on the stand by brilliant questioning, and my own role in bringing justice and truth to the world.  I knew those things weren't likely, but one can dream...

Instead I sat in a room.  After thirty minutes of sitting in a room a video was played to convince us that serving on a jury was an honour and a joy rather than a chore.  It made me cringe.  A couple hours later a man walked to the front of the room and gave a long speech about the details of being on a jury, the time frame involved, how it all works, etc.  When his speech was winding down he finished it up with "Oh, and we won't need you at all this week, your service is done.  Thanks!"

I was glad that I didn't get caught up in a big trial.  I have no interest in having my holiday plans destroyed.  I am disappointed that I didn't even get to see a courtroom though, much less any Matlock-style courtroom antics.

It turns out that my experience of jury duty is exactly the same as most people I have talked to.  You sit in a room reading for awhile, then someone tells you to go home because you weren't needed after all.

It is like going to an amusement park only to be turned away at the gate because one of the rides broke and it is a disaster inside the park.  Sure, it is better than being the one on the ride who finds out that it is broken the hard way, but you sure didn't get what you wanted!

If only I could just clear a couple weeks of my schedule and offer to be on all the juries during that time.  I would totally sign up for that.  The waiting in a room for no reason thing... not so much.

Doing my duty

Tomorrow I go in for jury duty.  I haven't done this before, and it is exciting.

I know, I know, it is most likely to be days of boredom sitting in a room with nothing to do, eventually to be told to go home.  Rarely does a prospective juror actually get to trial, and ever rarer yet is a trial that is exciting the ways the ones on TV are.

And yet, I am excited.

I want to understand the system.  I am deeply curious about how jurors are selected, what sorts of questions the lawyers and judge will ask, and what they will tell us.  The things they choose to tell us can be used to figure out what people generally think about the process and how the people running it cope with common misconceptions.

Clearly the people running the jury selection system realize that most people's exposure to this is TV courtroom dramas so they must have to constantly cope with odd ideas about what will occur.

One thing a discussion with a friend brought up was how much I will respect the law when and if I am asked to convict someone of a crime that is not actually immoral.

For example, if I was on a jury where a person was being tried for marijuana possession, could I possibly condemn them to prison for a victimless crime?  It is even harder when we consider that marijuana is soon to be legalized, and I know a *ton* of people that use it.  I can't justify destroying their lives to punish such a 'crime', so how could I justify doing that to a stranger?

I don't think I could.  I want the legal system to be consistent, but if I was asked to convict a sex worker or marijuana user or some other person who should never have been charged in the first place I don't think I could return a guilty verdict.  It simply isn't right.

That attitude might disqualify me from being a juror in the first place.  They don't want people who take writing laws into their own hands - they want people to interpret facts and return a verdict.

(Or they want people who will return a guilty verdict as fast as possible because that is convenient for the system, depending on how cynical you feel.)

Anyway, tomorrow I will go sit in a room for hours on end for no reason.  Maybe it will get more exciting than that, and I hope it does, but the odds are against me.  Still, I go to do my duty, and it is one I take seriously, so I don't mind.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Just a little off the edges

I watched Scarface (1983) for the first time this weekend.  It is an iconic film, one that I knew I was expected to have experienced, but I have enormous gaps in my pop culture education.  Watching the movie was a mixed bag.

I enjoyed the acting and I felt like the actors brought me into the world they inhabited.  I believed them.

It is good to now know where "Say hello to my little friend" and "First you get the money, then you get the power, then you get the women" came from.  I knew those phrases, but now I have seen their origin which helps when people reference them.

Old movies are *slow* though.  This is the thing that really got me - scenes just went on for a long time, far longer than was necessary to convey the message that the scene was there for.  I am sure people will tell me that it is about mood or something, but honestly it just felt like 40% of the movie could have been cut without losing anything.

That lack of proper trimming is the key to my dislike.  I subscribe to the theory that something is done when there is nothing left to remove.  I talked about Downton Abbey quite some time ago and one of the things I most admired about the writing there was how much they could cram into tiny amounts of time.  If an encounter was going to go predictably, they simply didn't show it.  Instead they would have a character toss away a single line to indicate how things had played out.  Scarface is like many older movies in that it didn't try to do that, or at least it wasn't done with enough vigour.

I suspect people will talk about how my generation wants everything instantly and has no patience, but mostly it is just that I want to be engaged all the time.  If I am going to put my time into a movie I want that movie to grab me from start to finish.  If it is going to drag and have overlong scenes whose point is already made then I would rather be killing monsters on the internet, thank you very much.  I don't want to just pass time, I want the story to leap out of the screen and not let me go.  I have shit to do that will entertain me actively so if I am going to try out passive entertainment it had better be a ride.

I don't regret watching Scarface.  It gives me references I would otherwise miss, and gave me some extra insight into the way film has changed over time.  But it wasn't all I was hoping it would be.  It too often was just chilling, doing nothing really interesting, letting time pass.

And that isn't so much my thing, when it comes to movies.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Cash Money

My grandma asked me this week if I am going to return to work.  I came up with an answer, but I don't know that the answer I gave entirely satisfies me.  I told her that I don't really intend to return to work, which is true in the short term, but the conundrum of what to do with my life is a thorny one.

There are two reasons to work.  First off is money, but secondly is the structure that works brings to life.  Sometimes having lots to do and many hours scheduled keeps me doing things instead of just sitting around.  I get a lot more productive when I have to be!  I don't think that actually would improve my life overall though because it would certainly increase my stress and it would be hard on Wendy.  Our life right now relies on me being able to just handle everything that she doesn't want to handle and our schedule is based quite substantially on me being home.  We don't have to worry about who will cook or do dishes or how we will get to the library in time.  I just do it, and that relieves so much tension.

To figure out if the money from working would make me want to go back to it I need to sort out exactly what I would buy with that money.  Our savings are ticking up these days at a rate that makes me comfortable, but we certainly aren't rich.  We don't have financial worries, but we also have to live frugally to achieve this.  So what would me earning 60k a year bring us?

A lot of that money would get soaked up by work costs and taxes.  Some costs are direct, like buying work clothes and transportation, but other costs creep in.  We would end up eating out more, paying people to do stuff for us, and maybe forking over money to keep Elli entertained and taken care of while work was happening.  Consider all that, and the actual net benefit is probably in the 30k / year range.

The thing I most want to buy is a bigger condo.  For 240k we could upgrade ourselves to the big units at the top of our building, which have a better layout, double the living room space (so we could actually entertain more than 3 guests at a time....), bigger kitchen, an office... it would be glorious.

But 240k is 8 years of work.  It does last a lifetime, but because there are greater taxes associated I should probably budget more like 300k, which pushes it up to 10 years of work.

10 years.  That is a LOT of selling beds.  Or writing code, or interfacing between coders and clients, or whatever it is I end up doing.  I have another 50 years ahead of me, and I am not at all convinced I want to spend 20% of it in a giant ball of stress trying to save up for a bigger condo.

The only other thing I can think of that I really want to buy but am hesitant to pay for it tattooes.  If I could get thoroughly inked up without having to worry about money I would, but when I think of an elaborate tattoo that costs 10k and then consider it would take 4 months of work to earn, I can't justify the expense.  I would rather just have my own plain boring skin than put in 4 months at a job.

When Elli moves out these values may change.  My need for space will go down, but my desire for more stuff to do and more structure will no doubt go up.  Also the stressors on Wendy will drop dramatically and the need for me to be home will be less.

So while working again is possible, right now I do the math and it just doesn't seem like the thing to do.  Maybe someday I will have the opportunity to do something I love which is worth it for its own sake, but as long as work is work it seems like my place right now is at home.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Average vision

It turns out that Elli has average vision for her family.  I have excellent vision, Wendy has horrible vision, and Elli is somewhere in the middle, which puts her squarely in 'Needs glasses, but it isn't critical' territory.

A week ago Elli came home complaining that she couldn't see the board at school properly so I booked her an appointment with the optometrist.  The result is that she mild nearsightedness, enough that she doesn't necessarily *need* glasses, but given that she is having trouble at school with her vision we decided to get them right away.  Introducing Elli to optometrist appointments was an interesting parent moment because she wasn't sure what to expect.  I can see the thinking - eyes are so sensitive, is this going to hurt or be scary?

It isn't painful or scary though, and after I described what would happen she was actually kind of excited about it.

I thought that she would be bummed out by the results.  I certainly would be irritated by the necessity to carry glasses around; if nothing else I don't want to keep track of another object.  Also my money demon has a bit of a fit at the cost of frames!

But contrary to expectations Elli was thrilled with needing glasses.  She explained that she was excited because glasses are her first accessory.  She doesn't have earrings, she doesn't wear necklaces or rings, and much to her dismay she doesn't have a tiara.  But now she has glasses so she has a thing to wear that is special and which she gets to pick out herself.

This is totally beyond my comprehension.  I accept it, but sure don't get it.  I have a hard time accepting pants, and those have pockets for my keys and phone.  Putting a thing on my head that might fall off or get lost?  Ick!  Having to pick out which frames I want and have people judge my fashion sense on that basis?  Faugh.

But she loves them.

One more parenting moment where I sit back and am surprised at the way things turned out.  It is a good surprise though as I was expecting her to need glasses at some point and it was an effortless thing, as medical crises go.  And heck, maybe it will even help her in school.

Of course she picked pink frames.  That part wasn't surprising in the least.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Open ended questions

The other night Elli asked me "What do you think of being a dad and an uncle?"

It isn't a hard topic, but figuring out how to answer that question was tricky.  I have a nephew and a niece, and I wasn't sure if she was referring to one or the other in particular.  I am closer to my nephew because he is my brother's kid, but my niece has more recently arrived.  I had a bit of a protective reaction when I found out my nephew was born, and the same thing did not occur when my niece arrived.

I tried to get Elli to elaborate on what exactly she wanted to understand, but she either didn't understand what she wanted, couldn't explain it, or didn't want to explain.  All of those things happen regularly, children's limited understanding being what it is, so I ended up going on a long, rambling explanation about how being a parent and being an uncle changed me.

I don't feel like being an uncle really matters much.  It doesn't change my identity one whit, and it has only a tiny effect on my life.  I can't say if other people feel that way, but for me parenthood has been a huge thing that changed everything about how I live while having a niece and nephew was pretty irrelevant.

This ambiguity about what exactly Elli wanted to know is one of the things about parenting that I didn't anticipate.  I knew there would be challenges, but I didn't expect how often the challenges would take the form of pure confusion.  I don't know what Elli wants, and she probably doesn't know what she wants, so I am just flailing about wildly trying to give her information and hoping that it works out.

There is real fun in answering these questions though.  I didn't anticipate that so much either.  I like just rambling on about stuff, and if I don't have a particular teaching goal in mind I can just pour out my brain and let her examine it.

Parenthood doesn't define me.  That is one concrete thing I was able to tell her.  I do the parenting thing, but being Dad isn't my identity.  I am just Sky, a guy who has a kid.

I wonder what lessons she takes from these sorts of conversations.  I don't want to ascribe too much import to any individual thing, but I wish I could know what the effects of my choices are on her.  For science, if nothing else.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Wanting to help

You can't tell people what to do.  I have definitely found this when it comes to relationships.  There is no point in trying to tell people that they should break up with someone, no matter how bad it is.  All that happens is they get bitter at you or become more entrenched in their problems.  People have to come around to figuring out that their situations are crappy on their own.  It isn't just in the arena of relationships that this advice seems to apply though, it also it just as true when it comes to substance use.

There have been a bunch of incidents in my life in the past while where people have been using substances in way they aren't happy about and I have sat there, unsure if or how I could help.  If they aren't convinced they have a problem then I really can't do much as I don't think that trying to convince them works.  I don't judge people by some arbitrary metric - I don't say that X drinks of alcohol or coffee makes you an addict, or that Y pulls on a cigarette or joint is an issue.  You have an addiction problem when your addiction causes problems, not when you meet some particular usage benchmark.  When someone doesn't feel they have a problem, it isn't my place to tell them they do.

The trick is when they decide they have a problem and I have to figure out what to do to help them cope.

I could try to say "Hey, maybe you have had enough for tonight...", which is fairly blunt, or just try to arrange things such that the environment controls the usage on its own.  If I invite people over and don't have their substance around, it is easier to avoid the issue.

But I just haven't found that anything I do helps.  At best I have no effect, and at worst I end up in opposition to people's desires and conflict threatens.  Even when that conflict comes up, it doesn't change how anyone behaves, so why even try?

It is hard to not try to help people who have said that they are trying to stop doing a thing, or that they know that doing that thing is hurting them.  I don't want to be anyone's keeper, or run their life, but I want to do what I can to help them make the decisions they want to make.

I also can't be sure that I truly understand the problem.  I have my own compulsions and poor decisions, no doubt, but substance abuse isn't on that list.  I drank a lot of caffeine in years gone by, but quitting was trivial for me, and that is the closest to kicking a substance habit I have had.  My compulsions are things like sex and video games, which while they can be compelling, lack the biological factor of substance usage.  That difference is huge and it means that I can't really grasp other people's experiences and that disconnect may lead me to misunderstand what they need.

I can and do provide encouragement and acceptance.  These things are a given.  Nonetheless, I want to do more.  I want to help shoulder the burden, if I can, but I can't ever seem to find a way to take it on myself.  I have the strength to spare, if I could just way a way to apply it, but every active application just seems to do nothing helpful.

Maybe that's all there is.  Maybe there is nothing I can really do aside from listen and offer a shoulder to lean on, and people just have to solve their own problems.  I don't like it, and especially now with so many people I know being distraught at the state of the world these things seem to be coming up more often than before.

If you are asking "Is it me?  Am I the potential addict Sky is talking about?" then the answer is maybe you are.  But you are in good company, at least.  You can take comfort in that.  There are many people with the same kinds of struggles, mostly they are wonderful and amazing folks, and you are most definitely not alone. 

Thursday, November 24, 2016


This post will reference both sex and kink, though not in any way explicitly.  Proceed only if you are comfortable reading about this aspect of my life.

I had a new experience this week, and it was one of those that is a combination of totally new and entirely expected.

I had some really intense, really kinky sex with The Flautist. Then we wandered out into my living room and sat down to eat, as refuelling was desperately needed.  (So far, expected.)  I thought back onto the sex that was just had and realized it was far away.  That is, it felt foggy, distant, almost not there.  I could recount the list of events and I don't think I lost any memories, but it was as though it happened last week rather than five minutes ago.  This had never happened to me before.

However, I know what to call it: dissociation.  That sense of being separated from oneself, of fogginess, is a standard part of dissociation.

I think a lot of people would be worried by this.  I wasn't, in fact I found it rather fascinating.  My brain working in new ways is usually just cool to me.  Dissociation isn't bad in and of itself, rather it is just a part of human functioning that can be useful in some situations but can be a problem for some people if it goes too far.  This didn't cause me any distress though because there wasn't any problem; the dissociation itself wasn't an issue and nothing bad happened because of it.

Pretty clearly this was due to my dual nature.  In sexual situations Passion is in charge, and when the sex gets kinky and I can really let myself go Director fades to nearly nothing.  I am nothing but a ball of primal instinct and raw emotion, lust and fury in equal measure.  Afterwards Passion was dormant and Director was entirely in charge so it makes sense that the memories would seem indistinct and far away because Director can't access the Passion mindset.  Memories laid down in an extreme mindset are harder to access outside of that mindset, and this applies to all of human experience, not just my own.

Of course my reaction was to immediately start talking about it in detached, technical terms since Director was in charge and that is how he rolls.  The Flautist was kind of worried and seemed concerned that something was wrong.  Most normal people that finish having sex and then immediately start talking about how their memories are weird and they are experiencing dissociation would be distressed.  The average person is not just going to take that stuff in stride.

I rushed to reassure her that everything was fine.  Yes, normal people who talk like this are probably freaking out, but I am not normal, particularly in this way.

This actually happens to me a lot.  Not the dissociation after sex thing, but the talking about stuff in a totally detached, emotionless way that worries other people.  I often end up entirely in Director mode, examining issues within myself or the world around me that most people would freak out about.  I get mechanical almost, carefully taking apart ideas that would be emotionally fraught for most.  When I do this I find people often get concerned, thinking that I must be really upset or unhinged and I cannot be trusted.  I have to quickly reassure them that I am fine, and am just really interested in the details of this thing, not actually angry/sad/distraught.

If I am upset, I will say "I am upset."  When I go on about potentially upsetting things but appear completely fine, I am actually completely fine.  This is abnormal.  For some reason.

This tendency of mine is a problem since I live around other people.  It is useful sometimes to be able to be super detached like that, but it does make it really hard for the rest of the world to get me.  I have to work to remind myself that people don't normally deal with things this way, and that I need to pretend to have standard emotional responses to grease the wheels of daily interactions.

Thankfully The Flautist believes me when I tell her that I am fine.  She isn't the way I am, but she seems to get it, and I am even under the impression that she likes me despite (or because?) of it.  I don't have to edit myself with her, but apparently I do need to offer explanations sometimes when I take a turn for the weird.

I think the person who best gets me in this way is Sthenno.  We often sit around having discussions where we have utterly bizarre ways of being emotional and detached from the topic at hand.  Our reactions make sense to us, but we both know that the rest of the world can't fathom how we work.  We both have a regular feeling of "Whoops, I went and acted like myself there.  Better pretend to be a human really quick so I don't upset everyone."

My experience was weird and unusual, but my response was entirely predictable and reinforced a pattern that is a constant in my life.  No matter how far I go, here I am.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Another post mortem for the pile

My Facebook feed is full of US election post mortem essays.  Everyone wants to weigh in on exactly why it went down the way it did, what it means, and what we can do about it.  Obviously given my political leanings and friend group it is mostly horror at Trump's victory and despondency at the damage he will do.  There is also a lot of misery at the state of the world that such a person could win.

I have many thoughts about the things I have read.

Many articles talk about how Trump won because of misogyny and racism.  This is both true and not true.  Clinton's loss was by a tiny margin, and it is entirely possible that if she were male but otherwise the same that she would have won.  If 1% of Americans swapped their votes from Trump to Clinton the result is a big win for Democrats.  That isn't much of a difference in voting for a huge difference in result.  (Go first past the post!  :P)

But you would be wrong to just chalk it up to "Americans are bigots" and be done with it.  Clinton was absolutely establishment and represented the status quo.  She has massive ties to big banks and shady shit like million dollar gifts from oppressive theocracies.  An awful lot of people were angry at the status quo and voted Trump in protest because he was the one they thought would shake things up.  And he will, at that.  Of course the result he is aiming for is to empower the rich and crush the poor, and he will do as much racist and sexist crap as he can get away with while pursuing those goals.

It is entirely true that Trump won in part because of the anger of people frustrated by their stagnating economic situation.  He won't help them at all, but that anger did help him.  So what do we do about that?

Lots of lefties think that the coastal elites ought to try to understand the rural Americans who so strongly support Trump.  They figure that we should have nice chats with them to understand their problems and get across that billionaires who inherited their wealth who promise to crush immigrants and get rid of health care make things worse, not better.  They think we should explain carefully and without derision how wrong racism and sexism are, how important women's and trans rights are, and how immigrants actually make America stronger and richer.

But let's be real for a second.  Will it be politically expedient to try to get the bigots into the leftist fold for the next election?  Probably.  Do we have some kind of moral obligation to treat awful behaviour with kind words and understanding?  Fuck no.

This article talks a lot about how lefties can understand white working class America, and makes it clear that focusing on things like transgender bathroom issues rather than economics is a problem in terms of elections.  But the article ignores the fact that the Republicans talk a *ton* about abortion and bathrooms, and that it is all well and good for white, cis, straight people to ignore social issues - everything already works pretty well for them, thanks, but it is pretty shit to just insist that the Democrats ignore those issues and leave marginalized minorities to rot in the name of expanding the economy.

Might it *work* to ignore social problems (which is fucking racist and sexist and bigoted, by the way) and try to win elections by talking only about the economy?  Maybe, but it would be a terrible thing to do.  It would tell those working class white people that yes, their problems are the real problems, and we needn't worry about all those trans women of colour.

There are also people talking about how the real problem is the Christian values of rural white America.  I am pretty sympathetic to this view, because Christianity as a whole tends to teach that faith is a virtue.  Believing in things that make no sense because an old man who is part of your in group tells you so is a cornerstone of Christian belief.  So when Trump walks in saying all kinds of ridiculous things that speak to the fears and biases of that group they are primed to believe him.

Personally I think faith is a terrible vice and responsible for much of the ills of our world.  This is one of my biggest gripes with religion - the teaching that it is good and right to believe in whatever you are told by authority.

However, we can't just call it done there either because plenty of people who aren't white working class Christian types voted for Trump.  We also can't just ignore huge chunks of society either, and we need to find a way to try to get through to them.  I suspect it is mostly an issue of time because churches and religiosity in the West are crumbling and their influence in on the wane.  Changing these attitudes will happen but it is a slow process.

One thing I think people on all part of the political spectrum ought to do is consider how they view the electorate based on election results.  Trump won with 25.5% of the vote.  If he had gotten 24.5% of the vote, Clinton crushes him.  That is huge in terms of who is president, but it hardly changes the electorate at all.  If you are despondent at the state of American voters that Trump won, but would be totally fine if he lost, you should think carefully about why it is that you would be okay with 24.5% of the people voting for him.

Separating the electorate from the results is important.  Yes, who gets to be President matters a lot, and we should talk about that.  But we shouldn't pin all of our attitudes towards Americans on the result of an election that Clinton won, by popular vote, and which she would have won by electoral college with only a tiny shift.  One really stupid quote from Trump, one more great speech by Clinton, and maybe the entire thing changes, and the electorate is still the same either way.

Don't give in to despair.  Trump is evil, and awful, but you must remember that we have had worse.

Go back a few decades.  Trump's attitudes towards women, people of colour, and queer folks of all stripes wouldn't have been outlandish, they would have been expected.  His faults, great as they are, are only so glaring because the world has come so far.

Trump is one step back, but we can see that the world continues to step forward.  We will continue to step forward, and setbacks will continue to come.  Slow, bumpy progress is inevitable.  The pushback against progressive thought is occurring because *we are winning*.

Remember that Toronto had Rob Ford.  Much of the same rhetoric, much of the same evil.  It seemed like all was lost, but we got past it.  Now we move on.

So go out there and do something Trump would hate.  Be generous to the downtrodden, welcome an immigrant, be as queer as queer can be.  He will eventually be gone, and we will push on.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Getting old, or perhaps just stupid

I posted this summer about difficulties I was having with sleep.  I am tossing and turning a lot and my arms have been sore.  I used to always sleep on my side but my shoulders and arm muscles have been complaining so much that I have ended up trying to learn to sleep on my back and that hasn't been going well.

This week it got so bad that I have been just sleeping on the couch every day because I seem to sleep just fine there.  Once I moved to the couch Wendy told me she was suddenly sleeping a lot better because I wasn't keeping her awake with tossing and turning all night.

Finally I bought a new bed, which is coming this weekend.  It makes me laugh because I should be the last person to put up with a bed which was obviously worn out.  I spent years selling beds to people, and even had a big speech about getting a new bed rather than just blaming bad sleep on being old.  People often do that, and while a new bed won't solve everything it is amazing how long people suffered before being willing to buy something new.  I shouldn't have suffered so long.  I gave that speech a zillion times!

It is even worse than that though.  Lots of people don't buy new beds because they are worried about paying too much, not knowing what to buy, or getting ripped off.  I know a ton of people who sell beds, so it is trivial for me to make sure I get a really good deal.  Even if I didn't know people I know how to negotiate and grind people down to get the deal I want.  I have been on the other side of that plenty of times.  Being worried about lack of knowledge or cost just aren't problems for me.

And yet, I waited too long and slept badly for many months.

I think it is my money demon.  It said that I bought a really good bed 15 years ago.  It should still be fine.  I can just stretch it a little bit longer, surely!

But geez, 15 years.  Beds wear out.  New beds have cool new tech.  I should have just gone and bought myself a new bed.  Spending hours each day napping trying to catch up, grunting and groaning when I went to stand because my back was killing me... these are not things I should be doing.

I spent $700 on my bed back in the day.  That works out to 13 cents a day.  Would I be willing to pay 13 cents to get an extra couple hours of sleep, or to stop being sore for a day?  HELL yes.

Sometimes even when you have every reason to do the right thing you just don't do it.  Even when you are an expert.  Even when it is just easy as anything to do it.  Those stupid demons in the back of your head get all noisy and annoying and they wreck everything.

But now I have a nice new bed coming, and soon I will sleep and sleep.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Coming without changing a thing

I just finished reading Come As You Are, written by Emily Nagoski, a book about women's sexuality.  It focuses on the way that women work, doing a great job of walking the line between saying 'women work like this!' and 'individual sexuality is all over the place, who knows!'

Thing is, there are real differences between how male and female sexuality function.  It is much like height in that women and men have a significant difference in their average height, but we should not forget that the range of heights within women is much greater than the difference between men and women on average.

Nagoski covers a lot of territory and manages to cover both the hard science about biology and also the social pressures that are so important in talking about this subject.  She makes it clear how much of the struggles she sees in her clients as a sex therapist are due to sexism and cultural conditioning and effectively communicates the ways that adopting feminist principles can help.

One of the best things in the book is her coverage of nonconcordance.  This is something I kind of knew but hadn't really thought out explicitly, but after reading her take on it the subject became blindingly clear.  Nonconcordance is when physical signs of arousal such as an erection or vaginal lubrication do not move together with the mental experience of arousal or desire.

I know that these things don't always go together.  Nearly every day I wake up with a big ole hardon, and it isn't because I am desperately turned on.  Much less frequently I am turned on, but the erection part of the equation isn't quite working out.  I also know both from theory and experience with female desire that this is true for people regardless of sex.

And yet I didn't quite grasp it somehow.  I read a study a few years ago measuring people's reaction to porn by checking their genitals which concluded that women were mostly bisexual and men either straight or gay.  They made these distinctions by ignoring the reported arousal of the test subjects and treating the genital measurements as the true test.

This is ridiculous.  We know that erections and lubrication are correlated with desire, but not that well correlated.  And yet I didn't dismiss this study out of hand at the time.

Nagoski got me to understand the issue correctly.  For example, she talked about how genital reactions are often to sexually *relevant* stimuli rather than actual desire, and that of course sometimes they don't seem to be a reaction to anything at all.

Nagoski also talks a lot about sexual desire in terms of accelerator and brakes.  Breaking down struggles with desire into that framework is really helpful, because knowing where your issues lie is a good first step to solving them.  Maybe you need to be more turned on, or maybe you need to figure out what is making you be turned off, but knowing that those are different systems that work in different ways for each person is useful.

The weakness of the book is that Nagoski does sometimes overuse metaphors.  Metaphors can be helpful at times, but they can be pushed to try to do too much, and at points I thought that the author was really going too hard to try to make the metaphor work and it cost her in terms of both clarity and precision.

One thing I did see in Come As You Are that I think wasn't handled quite correctly is the discussion of female Viagra.  Lots of people talk about the search for that mythical beast and I think the discussion is almost always a complete disaster.  We *have* female Viagra.  It is called lube.  It works consistently, has no side effects, and is cheap.  People often refer to female Viagra when they actually mean they want a pill that revs up a woman's libido, but that is a completely different subject and serves only to confuse what Viagra does and what problems women might be encountering.  We also don't have a pill that ramps up male libido, it should be noted.

No matter your sex or gender I think this is a book worth reading.  It helped me understand myself a little (I have an extremely sensitive sexual accelerator and no brakes to speak of!) and it helped me understand other people in my life too.  Several women I know who have read it got a ton of value from it and they thought other people would too.

Read Come As You Are.  Maybe don't try to follow all the metaphors all the way, but most of the rest of the book is excellent.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Why oh why

Trump is going to be president.  I didn't think it would happen, and a year ago I was hoping for Trump to win the nomination because I thought Clinton would beat him.  I figured that he would have lots of scandals, say incredibly stupid things, lose the debates, be unorganized, and piss off all kinds of voters with sexist and racist crap.  I thought that would make him lose to an organized, experienced, disciplined opponent like Clinton.  I was wrong.

Now don't for a minute think that I loved Clinton.  I was grumpy about Trudeau being elected in Canada because he is part of a political dynasty, and I actually liked his platform really well.  Clinton's platform was ok (pretty good for a Democrat, actually) but the dynasty thing really gets to me.  But compared to Trump?  No contest, give me the calculating politician over the megalomaniac sociopath every time.

So why oh why did this happen?

There are lots of people saying that it was due to Trump's followers being racist, sexist pigs.  They rant about the bigotry in American and Trump using that to get elected.  They are right.  Those shirts that Trump supporters wore saying "Trump that bitch" exist because so many people deep down do not believe a woman can successfully run the country.

There are others saying that no, it isn't the racist, sexist thing.  It is that Trump is outside the political establishment and people are angry.  They don't like how the world is shaping up and they want their secure factory jobs back.  They want their rural culture back.  They want the world to stop running away from them.  They are right too.

In the US there are real frustrations with the political establishment.  Huge ones.  There are people who just want it all to blow up and think that Trump will be so disastrous he might actually break things, and they want revolution so badly they will face any disaster to get it.  I totally understand that, because the two party system in the US is so dysfunctional right now that I get the desire to tear it down and start anew.

There is a real draw to the good old days.  Of course there is the perception that economically things were better back then, but that is just selective memory.  Today unemployment is low, things are cheaper than ever, and more people have health insurance.  There are plenty of reasons to think things are good.  But none of that compares to the shining memories of a golden past, even though those shining memories are a lie.  Inequality is bad now, no doubt, but pretty clearly electing a billionaire trust fund baby who wants to empower the rich is not going to fix *that*.

But it isn't just economics of course.  Men want to be able to smack the women in the office on the ass and have it just be chalked up to 'boys will be boys'.  People want to be able to loudly tell jokes about the Mexican, the Indian, and the Russian and have people laugh instead of being hauled into the office for a dressing down and a lecture on cultural sensitivity.  People want to be able to call things gay and not get frowned at.  Trump does those things.  He gets away with it.  His behaviour harkens back to a time when you could just take a giant steaming shit on marginalized groups and it was overlooked.  (Things are perfect now, but these things have improved.)

People want both those things.  They want the illusory glory of the past where every man had a good job and an obedient wife.  They want the freedom to stomp around unaware and uncaring of the struggles of those different from themselves.

So what do we do about the glorification of the past and the love of bigoted behaviour?  That, I don't know.  Both of these things are eternal, omnipresent in human society.  I suspect the answer is that we wait.  The world is getting better, but it is *not* a smooth slope.  It is jagged, and there are big steps back that happen when the people resistant to change lash out in anger as they did yesterday.

Trump is a step back from progress.  He is going to do incredible damage to the US and the ripples from his decisions will spread outward through the world.  Heck, he is actually a danger to begin some kind of serious global conflict.  But all we can do now is wait, knowing that once he has made his mess the pendulum will swing back the other way when people get sick of him.  It always does.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

A big plastic cup

We had a party last night and people were drinking wine.  They were drinking that wine out of wineglasses, which of course is ridiculous.  Wineglasses are terrible at being containers for wine.  They tip over easily, smash into many sharp pieces on a regular basis, and are annoying to clean.

Of course people spilled wine, at least in part because wineglasses are garbage for holding wine, though admittedly in part because, you know, wine.

Then they smashed a wine glass and had to clean it up.  Again, wineglasses.  Though, again, wine had something to do with it.

Instead of putting the wineglasses in the dishwasher like any reasonable sort of container they all had to be cleaned by hand, because wineglasses are terrible at the only thing they are meant to do.

People don't like me saying this.  They tell me that wineglasses are designed to perform critical things like providing the perfect temperature to control taste and the perfect shape to control smell.  And after telling me this they grab the wineglass by the bulb, fully negating the temperature control, and slosh the wine back with reckless abandon, forgoing any attempt at savouring the aroma.  If we are so concerned about providing the perfect temperature, I ask, why is it we seem so willing to consume wine that is randomly refrigerated or not, and wine that has been sitting out for a totally random amount of time?

The answer of course is fancypants.

Wine glasses are to make you look fancypants while you drink it.  Nothing to do with temperature, nothing to do with aroma, just fancypants.

I say FAUGH to fancypants.

Give me a big old plastic tumbler any day of the week.  One with a wide base so it doesn't tip over, and a huge capacity so I can fill it with wine once instead of going back multiple times.  And yes, plastic, so I can drop it on the tile if I want and throw it in the dishwasher if I want, and I can expect it to be a perfectly serviceable device for serving wine for my entire life and then some.

If you can admit that your wineglass is just for fancypants, then that is one step at least.  No artifice there.  You want to pretend to be some sort of real for serious person while you slam down your silly juice.  Fine.  But don't give me this nonsense about it being a better way to serve wine, because a wineglass is a far worse wine container than a child's sippy cup.

Wineglasses are just like shoes, and pants.  Ridiculous affectations for people to maintain the illusion of adulthood.  Wine in a plastic cup, drunk barefoot and naked from the waist down.  Now *that* is authentic living.

Friday, November 4, 2016

This again

An argument has been spewing its way across my social media feed about pronouns.  It started with a University of Toronto professor called Jordan Peterson who made some videos about how he thinks that pronouns other than he and she are wrong and bad and no one should use them.  You can read what he says here.

Naked Man linked me to this mess and asked what I thought of it.  I think that Peterson is a bigoted idiot and he is totally wrong about the new wave of pronouns.

Perhaps I should break down a bit why I think that name calling is justified.

Peterson trots out the usual crap to justify his dislike of pronouns other than he/she, which can be broken down as follows:

-It is an assault on language.

-Hate crime laws will put normal people who misgender others by accident in prison.

-Everyone has an obligation to present themselves in a way that makes it easy for others to interact with them.

Now I will give Peterson credit in one way; he avoids the usual claim that biology backs him up, which is also completely bogus.  However there is still plenty wrong.

Using alternate pronouns is not an assault on language.  Language is not fixed.  The perfect form of language does not happen to be the one you were taught when you were four.  Language evolves based on the people that use it, otherwise we wouldn't *have* any recognizable language.  We all adapted to the word computer as a noun, black hole as an astronomical object, and ISIS as a political entity rather than a mythological figure.  Language changing with the times and with culture is just the way things are, and saying that we shouldn't do a thing because it is a change to language is asinine.

Thoughtful criticisms of how hate crime laws work are something I would actually like to see.  I think we should talk carefully about how those laws work.  If Peterson had actual examples or legal critiques of these laws I would listen because that is a thing I am interested in.  Instead he seems keen to use his opposition to the laws as an excuse for acting like an asshole to marginalized people.  Object to the laws?  Sure, fine.  Maybe even good!  I don't know how the laws work that well, so they might well be overbroad.  But using that as an excuse to refuse to give an important consideration for someone who needs it, and which takes almost no effort on your part?  For shame.  The risk of imprisoning people for trivial offences like calling someone 'she' when they self identify as 'xe' is nonexistent.  The laws are aimed at consistent, deliberate misgendering, not accidents or pronoun usage for a person with a perference the speaker is unaware of.

The bit about people having an obligation to present themselves in ways that make it easy for others really boils my blood though.  Peterson basically has decided that everyone has a moral obligation to cater to his biases in all things.  They have to dress, speak, and identify in a way that is easy for him.  That way he never has to consider that there are people different from him in the world and he is saved from the tragedy of accepting other ways of living.

Peterson is a privileged upper class man who is angry that he might have to think about his preconceived notions and challenge some of his deeply held beliefs.  He is desperate to preserve the sanctity of the world he was taught to believe in and he is happy to cause whatever harm is necessary to do that.

Do his arguments about the laws surrounding hate speech have merit?  Maybe.  I don't know.  I am hesitant to have the state regulate speech, so I am naturally sympathetic to that worry.  But what I do know is that the rest of what he has to say is crap, and that leads me to believe that he is blowing his legal arguments out of proportion to justify his indignance at having his worldview challenged.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

In person

I broke up with Tinkerbell today.  It was a strange sort of thing because it wasn't exactly clear what we had.  Romance, yes, sex, yes, but I wasn't falling madly in love.  I often don't know how to characterize that sort of relationship.

I decided that I needed to break up on Saturday, for reasons that I won't get into here.  Once you make a decision to break up you suddenly have a whole new set of decisions pop out of nowhere that you have to cope with and they can feel entirely overwhelming.  I suspect a lot of breakups are delayed just on the basis of not being sure of the details that follow the decision.

How do you say it?  Where do you say it?  What reasons do you give?

Nobody has an obligation to provide reasons or justifications for breaking up.  It is one thing you can do unilaterally and without discussion if you want to.  Still, people generally do give reasons and people being broken up with normally want reasons.  I am on the fence about reasons because I think that normally they don't bring the closure that people are hoping for and they usually serve as a jumping off point for argument rather than relief.

On the other hand sometimes it is good to know what the problems were so you can avoid them in later relationships.  If nobody tells you that you need to brush your teeth, show up on time, be better in bed, whatever it may be, it is hard to know what to try to work on.  I am not convinced that people actually improve themselves after getting this information though.

One way in which I go against the masses in breakups is the medium.  People seem to generally think you owe it to the other person to arrange an in person meeting to tell them about the breakup.  I don't think that should be the default at all.  I tried to make that happen with Tinkerbell in deference to that belief and it totally failed.  She noticed that my request to meet was unusual and it came out right away over text what I was about.

I think that experience is the norm.  People know when something is up and it makes them anxious.  Delaying the telling until just the right place and time are available just means they have more time to panic and feel awful, and then when the breakup does happen they have to piece together what to do on the fly.  I know for sure that when people have broken up with me I did not want to book an evening together, travel to the site, then realize that my evening was going to consist of being dumped.  Much rather have it happen right away so I could avoid the anxious and unsure phase and schedule my time to help me get over the disappointment rather than wallow in it.

I am biased in this, most certainly.  I don't argue with people who want to break up with me.  I have zero desire for the opportunity to hear their reasons and dissuade them.  If someone is going to break up with me then I don't want to be with them.  The primary thing I want in a partner is someone who wants me in return!

When the situation is reversed it is similar.  I am not going to be argued out of a breakup.  I broke up with someone and then decided to change my decision once and only once and it was not the right decision.  Nothing was fixed and the same issues broke us up again.  I want nothing to do with arguing about whether my decision is wrong, so providing a face to face venue for that is not useful.

It might sound like I am arguing for breaking up and never communicating again.  That isn't the case.  There are often good things that can come from discussion afterwards.  Also I have maintained friendships with people I broke up with and I appreciate it when that can happen.  I do think that those talks are more useful when both people have had a chance to process the actual breakup message though.  Breaking up at a distance so everyone can get themselves sorted out before those talks happen makes those talks much more useful and productive.

Not that I am telling everyone else they ought to break up over text or email.  Do as you will.  However, I believe that there shouldn't be an assumption that a breakup that way is cowardly or cruel.  It is often the best way for everyone involved.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Fitting in

Elli wants a phone.  She has wanted one for a couple years now, but the desire has reached a fever pitch.  The other day I asked her why exactly she wanted a phone and what she intended to do with it.  She couldn't give me much of an answer aside from 'play games' and I felt like that wasn't compelling.  Later on that night though she came out of her room crying and told me that she knew why she wanted a phone.

"All of my friends have phones and it feels like they are in a club that I am not invited to and it makes me feel sad and left out."

I tried to comfort her and I suppose I succeeded to some extent.  I felt sad for her because it sucks to be the one left out.  I remember everyone in my elementary school getting Club Monaco branded sweatshirts and mocking everyone who wore anything else to school.  The sweatshirts were cheaper than a phone, but they sure were useless aside from signalling that you were a conformist.  At least the phone has functionality!

I hate buying into peer pressure and it irks me greatly to fork out money just because other parents have done so.  I don't want to be on that treadmill, and I don't want Elli to think that she or Wendy and I should be that way.  You can't win.  But I also don't want Elli to spend her school days pushed to the margins either and I just don't know how to bridge that gap.

There are plenty of arguments against giving kids phones.  One of them is that my generation didn't have cell phones when we were kids, so why should they?  Of course our parents didn't have computers, and yet we were pretty happy to have them, primitive as they were.  My parents also grew up in an era when beating your children over minor infractions was considered a normal, even noble, thing to do.  I sure wouldn't want that.  Generally speaking I don't think that "it was different in years gone past" is a strong argument for anything.

Arguments for giving kids phones exist too.  Elli being able to text us does increase her safety and her utility.  I could get her to go to the store for me more easily and effectively!  She could change plans with friends and easily check in with us when doing so!

Thing is, I don't want to spend fifty bucks a month for her to have a phone, nor many hundreds of dollars to buy something new and fancy.

Probably the best compromise is to give her a phone for social purposes but try to dodge the cost.  A used phone that only has a text plan is still pretty great for her - it grants communication at a low cost, and can still do lots of nice phone things through wifi.

At ten years old Elli is going to be far more tech savvy than I was.  Also a lot worse at chopping wood and fixing things.  Which I guess sums up pretty much every new crop of kids for half a century, at least.  Nothing new there.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Plot twist

This post is more sexually explicit and personal than most.  It isn't pornographic by any means, but it has frank discussion of my personal sexual dynamics.  If that isn't your cup of tea, stop reading.

Kink has been on my mind a lot lately.  I have been having a lot of kinky experiences and I feel like it has been really good for me in terms of understanding myself and others.  For me kink is a purely sexual thing and it isn't something I am interested in outside of that context.  Obviously for other people it works very differently - this discussion is about how I work.

Even up to a couple years ago I was pretty sure that I was not interested in kink.  Mostly it was because the things I wanted, deep down, were things that I couldn't figure out how to be morally okay with.  The thing that wiggles my waggle is being dominant and I couldn't figure out how to be dominant without violating my feminist principles as well as my instinctive worry of accidentally being abusive, especially towards women.  There was a lot of cognitive dissonance there.

It took awhile to actually recognize that dominance was what I wanted.  In large part this is because of my dual nature.  Initially it just seemed like a thing that I didn't want but that is because Director finds dominance extremely worrisome.  What if I do something wrong?  What if my partner is upset by what I ask of them?  What if I hurt someone by accident?  Much safer to just be cooperative or submissive.

But Passion doesn't like submissiveness at all.  Cooperation is fine and dominance is exciting and fun but submissiveness is boring.  Passion is in charge during sex so submissiveness doesn't work for me.

But I had to level up my feminism some.  Being a feminist isn't about sheltering women from experiences you aren't okay with, it is about empowering them and letting them chart their own course and it turns out that some of them really want to submit and get off on doing so.  If I won't believe women who say they really enjoy being submissive with me then I am being crappy to them by ignoring their stated beliefs and desires.  This shift didn't happen overnight and it didn't even happen on my own initiative.  Mostly it happened when women said things to me.

"Use me"
"I want to serve you"
"I am your dirty little slut"
"I deserve to be punished"

In most of these instances I was pretty surprised, at first.  However, the message was quite clear and it left me room to try things I hadn't tried before, and even have my mind be in a different place than it ever had been before.  I wouldn't necessarily have jumped to answer these calls except that in every case I knew that the women in question were ardent feminists who were absolutely strong and independent in most of their lives.  They knew what they wanted, and what they wanted was to be pinned down, smacked, and made to obey.

If at this point you are inclined to guess which of my lovers is kinky and which isn't, don't bother.  Some are, some aren't, and you can't tell at all from the outside.  Guesses will only get you in trouble.

Finally coming to accept that acting this way was ok on an instinctive level took awhile.  The theoretical acceptance was relatively straightforward but I had to viscerally accept it and that was much harder.  Eventually though I came not only to accept but also to enjoy it.

It has been a weird route to coming to this understanding.  There were trials along the way that didn't go well.  There were people that I did not match up well with in terms of kink specifically, even though otherwise there were plenty of good things.  That is something that I hadn't realized before really trying it out myself.  Sometimes even if I like a person and we have a sexual connection and we are both kinky the kink bit doesn't work.  It is almost like sexual attraction is, but on another entirely different axis.  When there was sexual chemistry the kink has come along slowly, immediately, or never, depending on the relationship in question.

There are also varieties of kink of course.  I am mostly into the dominance thing but there are so many other ways that kink comes out like bondage and pain that aren't really the thing for me.  Those certainly can be compatible with my desires, but obviously the most complimentary thing is submission.

I think the thing that is most enjoyable about dom/sub mechanics for me is that is simplifies sex so much.  When both people are equal, there is a constant give and take to decide what will happen next.  Are we starting or stopping?  Swapping positions?  Going faster, or harder?  Changing what we are doing entirely?  In non kinky sex I find I need to keep Director closer to the surface to negotiate with my partner over what we are doing.  I need to think, plan, weigh desires.  But when I am dominant and my partner is willingly submitting, I just push Director to the background and let Passion run free.  I just GO.  When I know that the thing that is turning my partner is me indulging my whims, doing as I will, I can leave my inhibitions behind and revel in the moment.  That freedom from responsibility, from negotiation, is a huge part of the appeal, and that works for both people.  Many submissive people have told me that the freedom from having to make decisions and be in control is the thing they love.

I know a lot of people will find this horrifying.  They would recoil if they saw it, and would think less of me.  If that is you, consider this:  Shoving a part of my body *into* someone else's body and slamming it in there really hard is an incredibly invasive act.  Yet vigorous penis in vagina intercourse is 'normal'.  Slapping my hand hard onto someone's ass though, that is kinky.  But between the two, intercourse is by far more likely to do damage or have other potential negative consequences.  So why be horrified by the kink, but not by the intercourse?  I suppose you could be horrified by both, in which case you seriously shouldn't be reading my blog.

Fact is, I am not trying to get anyone pregnant so sex is just about entertainment.  Given that fact, my partners and I ought to just do whatever is fun and our fun involves bruised asses and dirty words (among other things). There are no reasonable arguments from a safety standpoint - downhill skiing, martial arts, and even running are more prone to serious injury and just as prone to aches and pains.

The only real argument against my variety of consensual kink is that it squicks you out.  And that is fine, as far as it goes.  Some people get off on poop play with their sex, and that squicks me out.  But I won't tell them they shouldn't do that, because what difference does it make to me?  Their bed, their fun, their rules.

Sometimes I read about people discovering their kinkiness and often they end up realizing that their kink needs to be a huge part of their life.  A subset of them want to get into deeply kinky relationships where they give or receive orders 24/7.  Some want to bleed, or be set on fire, or any number of others things.  Many find that they just can't enjoy 'normal' sex or relationships much after that.

None of that really applies to me.  I like being dominant.  It puts me in a really fun place.  It is a thing I want to have in my life.  But I don't *need* it, not the way I need sex in general, and it certainly doesn't have to be with everyone.  It is icing on the cake.  Really tasty, but still only a small part of the whole.

I have found that it makes connections happen faster.  I think it is because it is on this different axis, and when people connect on just one level the attraction is strong, but when you connect in more ways it becomes more powerful.  It is somehow as though I have a new way to be attracted to people and that raises the maximum WOW factor.

Much of the changes in my mind lately revolve around letting go of inhibitions and control.  Allowing Passion to simply be, to let my carnal, savage, impatient side out to play has been really positive for me, and a big change in how I think.  Most of the time I am the same way I ever was, just old reliable Director.  But those times when I open the floodgates and let it go are potent and they leave me with a deep seated joy in life that permeates all of what I do.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Another reason why

This past weekend I received a lot of sad texts.  Both Tinkerbell and The Flautist had a rough time of it with family, and for both it was because they are polyamorous.  Their situations are different but there are some really important similarities.  Both came out to their families thinking that it would be fine and that people would be okay with it and both have had real problems being accepted.

It is worse on the holidays.  Something about ritual time together winds up the stress and anxiety level and having people be hostile to you in that situation is hard.  You can't get away without offending people and so often you have your own desire for a happy family time get torpedoed by people who insist on belittling or dismissing your choices.  I think because holidays are so wrapped up in other sorts of tradition people get into the mindset that everyone ought to pretend to be perfectly average people so you can all fit into the nice 'normal' box.

I am lucky with my own family this way - some of them really don't get my choices, but they haven't ever made it a problem when I visit.  I don't expect people to convert and I know that for many polyamory is inexplicable but as long as they decide to just set it aside and treat me as they always have I won't fuss.  I don't discuss it around Wendy's family, as I am sure that would be a disaster (though what shape the disaster would take I can't say exactly) so in that regard I am in a similar boat to my paramours.  Keeping silent to avoid a mess isn't fun, especially for me.

This is why I talk about polyamory here and why I won't just shut up about it.  People who accept all kinds of other life choices still consistently react badly to news that their relatives have open relationships or are polyamorous.  Moreover because it is still a small, fringe sort of thing people feel justified in being awful to polyamorous people.

Somehow because poly is still on the margins people largely have it in their heads that it is okay to be cruel and unpleasant to poly people in order to try to get them to stop doing it, or at the least pretend it doesn't exist.  There is a pervasive idea that just talking about poly is somehow offensive, crude, or rude, and that is so messed up.

If a polyamorous person is trying to recruit you, then certainly feel free to be dismissive.  But even then you should expect that if you try to recruit them into monogamy that they will be equally dismissive.  But if all they ask of you is to accept their way of being then you need to just do that.

Right now our society is in a place where it is expected that if a polyamorous person comes out to their family they will end up being treated badly.  The norm is that you either shut up and hide in the closet or end up being made miserable.  I shouldn't have the expectation that people I care about are going to be made unhappy every holiday and that I will get lots of stories of woe.  Who needs family that acts like that?

The way I fix this is by being loud.  The way the world gets better in this way starts with people knowing that poly exists, that lots of people do it, and that there is nothing wrong with it.

My being loud probably won't help the people romantically involved with me, certainly not quickly.  These changes take time.  But fielding sad texts on holiday weekends (and sometimes sending ones of my own) because of anti poly bigotry shouldn't be a feature of my life, and I am going to take what steps I can to nudge the world to a better place.

Monday, October 10, 2016

The locker room

Donald Trump's recent scandal involving the leaked video where he talked casually about sexually assaulting women and being able to get away with it because of how rich and famous he is has been a disaster for him.  That it took so long for this footage to surface is kind of amazing to me, but there it is.

The other thing that is amazing is the way Trump tried to defend himself in light of this video.  He used the words "its locker room talk" to try to downplay his comments about grabbing and kissing women without their consent and against their wishes.

So what does 'locker room talk' really mean anyway?  I think it basically comes down to talk that reflects how you actually feel but don't want to get caught saying.  It takes place in a location where people are segregated by gender and there is a strong tribe mentality to make it hard for anyone to report shitty behaviour within the group.

Trump has basically tried to defend his disgusting speech by saying that it is stuff he believes, but that normally he would try to only say that sort of thing when the people around are less likely to be offended by it, and when he really expects all the people in attendance to keep his dirty secrets.

That isn't much of a defence.

I am sure Trump really wanted us to believe that he was just kidding around and didn't mean it.  But it isn't my experience that locker room talk is that sort of thing at all.  Plus we know from many complaints against Trump ranging from unwanted touching to rape that he is happy to assault women whenever he wants with the expectation that his power and celebrity will shield him from repercussions.  This isn't a case of Trump going along with things other people said to fit in - it is an accurate reflection of his character.

It is still a sad state of affairs that Trump has 40% of the American electorate voting for him.  However, we can at least take solace in the fact that his polling is tanking, his party is abandoning him, and his prospects are dwindling.  There is some sense of outrage out there thankfully, and I hope that outrage carries Trump to a resounding defeat while the world look on with baited breath.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Pears and pineapples

I like to think about what choices I should make in various situations.  For example, if I am buying fruit in the winter I know that bananas are a better environmental and monetary choice than nearly any other fruit since they are cheap because they can be shipped here slowly on a boat and that also makes them a good choice in terms of being low emissions.

Sometimes though I struggle to figure out how to compare two totally different scales.  For example, this year I have been working out a lot.  I like the results.  I look better, I feel better, I am healthier.  But I am eating a lot more protein, and that has a cost.  It seems to me that environmentally speaking bodybuilding is a ridiculous and damaging pursuit.  Being big at the cost of a couple thousand eggs seems bad.

But being healthy is good.

So how do I compare these things?  What can I do to even put those things on the same scale?

It baffles me.

It is further complicated by odd feelings about the very idea of looking good.  People grade each other on a scale based on what else they see around them.  Being the richest person in your social group is a huge bump in terms of happiness, no matter which strata of wealth your social group falls into.  Same goes for how you look.  10,000 years ago people didn't go about thinking that everyone's hair was awful, they just graded it on the curve.

Which means that if I get bigger (and, by most people's metrics, hotter) then I am making everyone else around me feel less hot.  So while that isn't exactly evil, it is definitely an argument against working out being a general good.  It is like some kind of bizarre mad scientist's machine - lifting weights transfers a slight amount of hotness from all the people I know to me.

All of which is saying that working out is good for me, but I have these weird feelings like it isn't actually good for the world.

Not that this is going to stop me from lifting, mind, but it is going to make me think about this stuff a lot while I do.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The cost of veggies

I was talking with the Flautist this weekend about being vegetarian.  She is one and always has been while I am an omnivore and always have been.  I have tried just eating veggies at times but it has never lasted long as I always felt my diet lacked something and I had serious meat cravings.  She told me about an argument against being vegetarian she had trouble with, which was essentially that growing crops kills plenty of animals so even vegetarians kill animals in order to eat.  This is of course true to an extent, but could easily be abused.

Let's be frank.  If you live in modern society your existence kills animals.  Your home is on land that could have housed animals.  Your food comes in trucks that run over animals.  The farms that make your food slaughter insects by the millions, dismember worms, groundhogs, and other underground critters, and wipe out forest habitat.  Your clothes and vehicles and everything else you have also comes from processes that wipe out animals.

Your very life is perched on a gigantic mountain of dead creatures.  Doesn't matter how environmentalist you are, how vegan you are, or how much it bothers you.  The only way to stop murdering other creatures for your own life to continue is to die.

Deal with it.

So given that we can't avoid being mass murderers of animals just by living in the society we live in, what are we to do?

We could decide that animal lives are clearly irrelevant and tuck into veal cutlets for every meal while throwing away as much waste as possible.

But we could also be thinking creatures and realize that we can't avoid the carnage we cause but we can minimize it.  Nobody can claim to be pure, causing no death and suffering by their passage, but we can work on ways to try to make the devastation we all leave behind a little less.

Being vegetarian is a fine way to do that.  A cow takes up far more cropland than veggies do, so vegetarians leave far less death behind them even if you ignore the death of the meat animal itself.  There are also strong arguments for vegetarianism from an environmentalist standpoint for basically the same reasons.

The two main reasons I see for people advocating vegetarianism are environmentalist and animal rights related.  Both have the same sort of structure though, for my purposes.  In our lives we destroy animals and do environmental damage whether we want to or not.  Also in both cases we can lessen that damage.

The trick is to not get caught up on any one thing, to my mind.  We don't have infinite energy, money, or attention.  We can't reduce the animal impact of our eating to zero, so absolutes like "It is wrong to kill animals for our food" aren't useful in the real world.  However, we certainly can take steps to try to make our impact less and each person is going to have different ways they try to do that.  Different people have different compromises that they can manage.

Some people can manage not eating meat.  Some can use no plastic.  Some can never fly in a plane.  The trick, I think, is to get away from absolutes.  It isn't that flying is right or wrong, it is that it has problems we should acknowledge.  Same goes for so many other things.  We should look at people with the expectation that they make real, serious attempts to make the world better in the ways that make sense for them, even if those ways aren't the ways we ourselves choose.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

On your own

Elli plays lot of video games.  This goes all kinds of different ways, ranging from her finding things on her own and learning them without my influence to her wanting to play games I play and pushing me to play with her.  I am often surprised by how she ends up finding games and figuring them out - sometimes she asks for help and I am baffled because I have no idea how the game works at all.

That kind of thing is fun though.  It is neat to see her pick up skills I don't have and explore new worlds all on her own.

It isn't as good when she wants to follow me though.  Recently I have been playing World of Warcraft again with Wendy and Elli wants to join up.  The problem is that when she has me along she never bothers to learn or think at all.  She expects me to hold her hand all the time in all decisions.  She has no interest in figuring the game out.  She just wants to follow my character around.

Quite frankly that is boring as hell.

Obviously I don't expect her to be an instant expert on a game, especially one where I have played for years and know so much.  I expect her to start at the beginning and have to learn it all.  What I wish though is that she would put effort in to do so.

I think it is hard for her because she can see that no matter how hard she tries she will never know all the things I know.  In a game I have mastered there is little point in her trying as she can never compete.  I get that.

It just means that games that I am really involved in aren't good ones for her to play.  It is far better for her, and far more fun, to play a game that I know nothing about so she can sort it out for herself.

I remember this kind of thing from my youth.  I remember having to learn how to install games on our family computer so I could play DOOM.  It took some doing, but I eventually managed it, and the process of doing so was really rewarding.  If my parents had just done it all and then told me what to do and how to play at every point it would have really lacked something.  Reaching out and exploring without a teacher hovering is critical to having fun!

While I like the idea of playing games with her it seems like a tall order.  Either I know a game inside out and she won't much enjoy it, or I don't know a game and am not interested in playing it.  I don't do games casually very often so it is hard for us to have similar levels of mastery.

It is a dilemma I have no good answers for yet.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

An old sadness

Today I took Elli to see Casa Loma, a castle here in Toronto.  It was built in 1914 to look like a really old school castle but used construction techniques current to that time.  Basically an outrageously wealthy couple built the place to establish themselves as having more money than all the other upper class folks, lived there for ten years until they lost their fortune, and eventually died penniless.

It was depressing.

There were all kinds of interesting facts there, and artwork that was neat, and all the other things you would expect in a weird historic site like that.  I just couldn't get past the way the tour took the inequality made evident in the castle in stride.  The ruling couple had every single wall covered in carvings, $20 million worth of art (in 2016 dollars), and imported a marble staircase from Europe to be just the thing for the main hall.

The servants, on the other hand, worked 16 hours a day, six days a week, for a pittance.  The audio tour made it clear that this place was an amazing place to be a servant though, because the servants were allowed to use the bathrooms indoors and weren't made to use the outhouse.

Of course they should tell the truth about the way things were, but I do wish there was a bit more recognition of how much of a disaster this inequality was.  It isn't good that servants were usually expected to sleep in drafty attics and just freeze all winter while the upper class people had comfy beds pre warmed for them.

I think a lot of people will dismiss this as ridiculous.  Am I really so worried about the way that we portray the treatment of servants over one hundred years ago?  That it ignores the inequalities of the time?

I guess so.  Learning more about the world, seeing the mess that it is, makes it harder for me to just ignore these things and enjoy the suits of armour and crenellated towers.  I can't help but look about at the human cost of these things and the way that such effort was expended just to make a very few people look important.

Things haven't changed that much.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Tipping point

When I got my tattoos done a week ago I had a choice to make about money.  After swiping my card the credit machine popped up with a prompt to leave a tip for the tattoo artist.  I was surprised by this, not because I thought that you specifically don't tip tattoo artists, but simply because I hadn't thought about it at all.  The hour was late, I was tired, and the people clearly wanted to close up and go home, so I didn't have time to google 'tipping tattoo artist' and figure it out.  I ended up just tipping $40 even and hitting go.

Being me though I couldn't just leave it there.  I had to find out what the correct tip was so I would not make the same mistake twice at the very least.  It turns out that tipping tattoo artists is not so simple as tipping wait staff at restaurants - there doesn't seem to be any 15% standard agreement.  Instead I was told to tip somewhere between 5% and 35%, which is not useful.  Also the tip amount varies on whether the artist works for themselves, how much additional time they put in, and even the size of the bill.  Tipping on a % is not a useful way to express your tip if the % varies based on how long you were in the chair!

At any rate my tip only worked out to about 5% of the cost.  It seems like my artist probably gets to keep about half the take and the other half goes to the business, so she took home $450 for 4.5 hours of work.  Pretty good!

But the setup and takedown and such for my tattoos filled up the remainder of her shift, so her billing hours were really only half the hours she spent.  Plus they offer free touchups so she is definitely going to have to put in another bunch of time to fix me up perfectly after the healing is done.

Also there is the complication that tattoo artists have to pay for some of their own materials and tools, but how much is completely beyond me.

So there doesn't seem to be any real authority from which to determine a tip amount.

There also isn't any useful way for me to figure out what a 'proper' wage might be since there are so many variables and guesses.

However, my % is on the lowest end, and even though people mostly recommended tipping low % for relatively expensive work, I don't want to be the lowest.

As such I wandered back into the tattoo place a couple days ago and asked them to give the artist another $40 to double my tip.  It still isn't a lot of money, but it seems like enough to be reasonable.  They seemed pretty surprised by this.  I guess most people coming in a few days after are asking questions, panicking about healing, or complaining.  They probably don't often just show up to hand over more money voluntarily.

Anyhow I feel like my mission is accomplished.  That is, I no longer feel self conscious about my tip and it seems defensible so I will just move on and think about other things.  That is how people mostly make these sorts of decisions I imagine, though perhaps my research and consideration of the choices was an outlier.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Does this hurt?

My arms hurt.

I got tattoos yesterday on both shoulders, and while I love the tattoos themselves, the damage my body sustained is kind of annoying.  It turns out that poking one thousand tiny holes in my skin is painful.  Who knew?

People talk about how much pain is involved in getting tattoos but I wasn't at all sure what to expect for myself.  I know that getting them right on the meat of my shoulder as I am should minimize the suffering but I couldn't really translate that to what it would actually feel like.

Before I really got started somebody in the tattoo parlour fainted, which apparently is a fairly common occurrence.  That didn't fuss me any though as fainting really isn't a thing that affects me.  I don't like being poked with needles but it isn't going to knock me out.

Initially the pain was quite trivial.  No worse than the pain from running really hard or other strenuous exercise.  I didn't have the runner's high to compensate of course, but it just wasn't much of a thing.

Later it got pretty unpleasant.  I grunted and winced a lot, and by the end I really had to dissociate a fair bit to be able to ignore the pain.  I was able to read my book all right but I wouldn't have been able to think clearly or have a decent conversation.  I couldn't really tell if the increase in pain over time was due to fatigue, hunger, or a shift in the way the artist was working.  The last parts were filling in big areas which apparently hurts more but putting together the parts of the changes in pain is challenging.

At any rate it wasn't that bad.  It was a long time though - five hours actually in the chair being stabbed wears you down, even if the pain isn't really much of a problem in the beginning.  Perhaps when I get tattoos in more delicate places things will be different.  However, I can say that all those people that told me that I wouldn't be able to sit in the chair being tattooed for more than a couple hours were wrong!  Hah!

Things are kind of unpleasant today though.  My shoulders are really sore, especially when I move my arms up and bend the damaged skin.  Showering was actually quite easy but hoo boy did it sting a lot after I had gotten out and carefully dried myself off.  Sleeping was also challenging as I couldn't sleep on either side so I ended up on the couch on my back propped up with lots of cushions.  It wasn't the best.

Final conclusions about the pain:  It is annoying, for sure.  But the pain of getting a tattoo is definitely not the thing that will delay me from getting more of them.  The price holds that honour, as I certainly found it hard to swallow the cost.  Once I convince myself to spend the money, the physical suffering is a small thing in comparison.  If somebody gave me ten grand to spend getting myself tatted up I would be in the parlour an awful lot over the next few months, you can be sure of that.