Monday, May 30, 2016

The words make it hard

I am having an interesting time figuring out words for a thing.  The thing in question is not, in itself, complicated, but labels and categories are.  The thing I am trying to define is a relationship with a woman I will call Tinkerbell.  Trouble is, even using the word relationship is a problem because it leads to incorrect assumptions.

It isn't a romantic relationship.  It is really best defined as friends with benefits.  That might even lead to incorrect assumptions too, because that typically means friends with the possibility to hook up here and there, more friends than sex, but this is more like a 50/50 proposition.

Which has lead to me thinking a lot about what exactly is going on inside my head.  Some people just use friends with benefits to avoid calling something a relationship but that isn't the case here.  I actually have an entirely different way of viewing this thing that has some big differences from the way I view romantic relationships.  There is fondness, sure, and shared values, and comfort in coexistence.  Also lots of lust.  But that isn't enough to make it a romantic relationship.  There is another thing that isn't there, which isn't to say that it is lacking, just that it is not the same.

There is some kind of magical difference that I struggle to articulate.  In some ways it is certainly less urgent - if the sex ended I don't think it would change other things, but in romantic relationships if the sex ends it definitely makes everything else change, for me at least.  That need for lust and sex to exist to cement the romantic bond isn't there.  Somehow the sex lacks some element of necessity.

As to whether necessity is a good or bad thing... well, I think necessity is an issue far more than a benefit.  Knowing that your partner requires sex to maintain a romantic bond puts pressure on that can be a struggle to cope with.

So how this shakes out is friendship with lust.  But not desperate lust, not lust as part of a romantic connection.  Just straight up plain old lust.

Which seems simple enough, now that I put it that way.  But no matter how simple the phrasing this is a really different sort of place for me to be in.  While I have had sex with people where the emotional romantic attachment was new or incomplete it was always there, always building.  At the very least it was a thing I was leaning towards.

Most of the time when I hear FWB situations described they end up with one person falling in love and that being a huge turning point.  Usually it leads to a breakup, sometimes to a relationship, but it rarely is a stable thing.  That isn't a unique state of course, since first dates could be easily described in the same terms.  It is just that my mind generally frames FWB arrangements instinctively as temporary, subject to change on short notice.

But that needn't be the case.  When I step back from my learned reactions and think properly about it I know plenty of people who have things that would be described as FWB that have lasted a great deal of time.  Usually they are much less intense and consistent than what Tinkerbell and I have going on, but I know it can be a thing.  Not that long term is particularly my concern right now, as I am quite confident that the best way to enjoy a connection to a person is to think about the now and not worry about the far future.  You never really know what it will be like anyway, and the things you worry about rarely end up being the actual issues.  Things are far better when you just accept that the now works and go with that.

It is kind of funny because in some ways this was exactly what I set out looking for when Wendy and I first decided to be poly.  I didn't know what I wanted for sure, but it seemed like finding a married woman who I got along with who also had a similarly oversized sex drive like I do would be the ideal.  At the time I was sure I wanted to find sexy times, and wanted the option to fall in love should that happen.

I probably shouldn't bother thinking about this so much.  After all, it works for me, and is relatively effortless, so why worry?  I can't help but think about how to talk about it though.  If I described my physical actions people would say "Okay, so you are dating Tinkerbell, sure" and I would say "But no!  I mean, it sure looks like that, but in our heads it is a different thing!"  This is one of the challenges of living a lifestyle that is different from the norm - the words we use and the attached assumptions are rooted in a viewpoint that doesn't include my life and it makes descriptions complicated.

Spending lots of time overthinking questions of sex for entertainment and curiosity.  That's me all right.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Backing away slowly

I have been on my exercise regimen for roughly 100 days now.  I can see clear results both in my ability to do the exercises and my body - I actually have pectoral and arm muscle definition without any sort of flexing, which has never happened before.  Unfortunately my quest to get a six pack is pretty much failing, as I have massively increased my core strength and endurance but you can't tell by looking at me.  I can *feel* all the extra muscle in my stomach but translating that into visual muscle definition is elusive.  My numbers are all up - crunches per set up from 20 to 100, weights increased anywhere from 50% to 100% depending on the exercise, so I am certainly a lot stronger.

Sadly it appears to be taking its toll.  I have had slight knee pain doing my cardio routine over the last week, but after yesterday the pain did not stop after the exercise was done.  Today it is still there, and although I am functional I am definitely concerned that I have done something bad to my knee.  Much as I want to be fit and strong I definitely don't want my joints to be a casualty of war.  I kind of thought that by focusing on the elliptical rather than high impact running I could avoid this kind of thing, but no such luck.

To a lesser extent my arms are also starting to complain.  I am not sure why, but it is my forearms that are sore.  I can't say why I expected something else, but I never felt like I was doing a lot of exercises that would strain my forearms in particular so I figured if I started to hurt it would be somewhere else.  Apparently I don't know what I am doing.

Which, you know, anyone could have told you.

At any rate I need to make changes.  Damaging myself is not part of the bargain.  I am doing this to get stronger, better, not to break myself.  Vanity certainly plays a part, no doubt, but I am surely not going to suffer through injuries to get a tiny bit extra hot.

My current plan is to switch from the elliptical to yoga.  I don't think I need to stick with yoga exclusively forever, but definitely for a month to let my knee get better, and then maybe swap up my routine so I only do elliptical training for 1 day a week and do rowing and yoga for the other two.  I should have thought of this before - do any one thing too much and you hurt yourself.  I need variety, and my body is telling me this in no uncertain terms.

I don't think I need to change my weight regimen particularly but I probably should have a bit more rest.  To that end I will go from 7 days a week to 6 - 3 on weights, 3 on cardio.  1 extra day of rest ought to allow my body to catch up from the punishment I am dishing out.

It is annoying to have to admit that I am mortal, and that my body can't just do whatever crap I order it to without complaint.  Obey orders, stupid body!

But admitting that I am mortal before the damage actually becomes a problem is certainly the way to go.  I cannot allow myself to get laid up with my tough mudder just two months away.  I need to be ready for crushing time come mid July, no exceptions shall be made.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Thumbs up

Last week I watched two movies that had some things in common, but which ended up making me react in totally different ways.  They were Ender's Game and Terminator:  Genisys.  Both have connections to my younger self and a big claim to nostalgia.  I love Ender's Game the novel (though the author is a wretched excuse for a human) and I wanted the movie version to be good.  I wasn't optimistic on that count though because I couldn't imagine how you could do that movie properly without it being a six hour epic and I was right to think that.  It was obvious that it would have to be a cut back version of the story and to no one's surprise that version ended up being bad.

It wasn't just the limitations of the time and format though.  Unfortunately Ender's Game the movie went with a bunch of ridiculous space tropes that make no sense, particularly the chase and fight scenes in ludicrously crowded asteroid fields.  A pro tip:  A real asteroid field is a hunk of rock, and then another hunk of rock 10,000 km away.  And then one more hunk of rock 1,000,000 km away.  You don't zoom around in fighter jet style maneuvers around tightly packed, spinning pieces of space stone.

Maybe there was a decent movie that could have been made by ignoring most of the Ender's Game book and cutting it down to a totally different story.  Maybe.  But the movie failed to deliver anything resembling a good experience, and also failed to deliver on the Ender's Game story.  I could forgive it not being like Ender's Game if it was good, and I could forgive it being bad if it was Ender's Game, but instead the movie fails on all counts.

Terminator:  Genisys on the other hand was schlock but at least it delivered where it counted.  Arnie played a mostly humourless terminator killing machine who displayed more nobility than any human could muster and that carried the movie on its own.  The plot makes little sense, the ending was hackneyed, and the acting (Arnie aside) was bad.  I don't know if I should blame the writers or the actors but I wasn't impressed.

But it turns out I will forgive a movie all kinds of flaws if Arnie nails his role and he did.  Genisys could have succeeded by either having Arnie do his thing or it could have succeeded by being a good movie.  It managed one of those things.

Genisys also ended with a direct setup for more movies.  While on some level I feel silly for supporting such rubbish I can't deny that the formula of Arnie plus random hacked together nonsense is good enough for me, and I will certainly see any additional movies that go with that formula.

I am not that picky about my movies.  They just have to get one thing right, and Genisys succeeded while Ender's Game did not.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

A thwarted attempt at outrage

I saw an article about a court ruling in the United States surrounding the church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.  It was one of those things that I expected to be outraged by... sometimes you just want a reason to rant at the world.  The essence of it is that there is a convicted criminal who wants special treatment on the basis of his religion, which is pastafarian of course.  He claims to believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster and the precepts of the church that worships it.

A judge denied him that right though, and although I was primed to be bitter about it I actually find the judge's reasoning pretty defensible.  Religious exceptions are designed to be about sincerely held beliefs and followers of the FSM don't actually think they need to put colanders on their heads.  They just do it as satire, to push back against mainstream religions.

I love that satire!  I think the FSM is amazing and love the mirror it holds up to a lot of ridiculous religious practices, not to mention religious assertions of 'fact'.

But it is true that religious exemption laws are actually there to allow people with these convictions and cultural practices to be able to pursue them without state judgement.  They aren't there as a vehicle for satire or rebellion against mainstream religion.  In that sense the judge is totally correct; the purpose of the laws definitely is not to support things like pastafarianism.

On the other hand religious freedom laws are often totally ridiculous because they specify religious grounds for exemptions instead of just making it about sincerely held beliefs.  I think it is wrong (and definitely a violation of the principle of separation of church and state) that people are able to claim exemptions on religious principles when other principles will not be accepted in the same way.

This is one of those situations where I hate the way things are but I recognize the problems with any sort of solution I propose.  I cannot abide religion being put on a pedestal and being given special treatment, but I also don't want the state to be obliged to accommodate an individual who sincerely believes that they need to be covered in peanut butter at all times.  Limiting such protections to large religions at least makes sure that anything protected is something a lot of people are already doing, so it probably isn't all that hard to deal with.

I don't know how to suggest a better way, exactly.  Can we really say that we will provide exemptions to rules for sincerely held beliefs, so long as those beliefs are sincerely held by enough people?  How many people?  What sorts of beliefs?

Most exemptions are, I think, simple things like clothing and allowance for worship, which honestly aren't that big a thing to just grant to everyone.  But if you want to write a law about this sort of thing you need to be reasonably specific about what is allowed and when I try to think about how I would write up a law that specifically allows for rules exemptions but has limitations to make sure we don't cause massive obstructions to our basic systems I end up feeling despair and getting nowhere.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Marshmallow soup

Elli recently had a project for school where she needed to make up her own recipe.  She elected to combine a dessert recipe I had sitting around with some of her own ideas and ended up settling on the following concoction:

Marshmallow soup

1 chocolate bar
1 cup of marshmallows
1 tbsp of brown sugar
1 tbsp of honey

She pestered me about actually making her recipe for quite some time and this weekend we finally got around to doing it.  First we melted the marshmallows and chocolate in a pot, which looked like this.

Then once everything was nicely melted we added in the honey and brown sugar.  Unsurprisingly it tasted pretty good, since of course it is nothing but a giant pile of sugar.  Elli was thrilled to eat her own creation, though I was surprised that she didn't vacuum it all up immediately and saved it to enjoy over the course of a couple days.  The final product looked like this.

It tasted a bit like s'mores with a honey accent.  Which could have been predicted by anyone, really.

Friday, May 13, 2016


Elli has been taking leaps forward in independence lately.  She has taken up messaging her friends over email and gchat lately and this has led to them having random meetups in the neighborhood.  It isn't anything especially exciting to me, just meeting up at 7-11 to buy candy, but to her it is a ball of endless excitement.

The real shift I am noticing is her wandering out of my sphere of knowledge.  It used to be that I knew every book she read, every game she played, every place she visited.  On each step of her journey outward I was, if not a companion, at least fully aware.  Now she heads off to stores after school without me knowing, reads books I never knew she had acquired, and plays games I did not teach her.

It feels like a deep shift with small signs.  She is finally stepping away not just in body, but in mind.  She is pushing out into the world and doing her own thing, making her own decisions.  I think this is something that scares a lot of parents and makes them hold on ever tighter, because that sense that you just don't know what your kid is up to is such a profound change from the total dependence of earlier years.

I like it though.  It is really cool for me to hear about the things she has gotten up to, and to find out what she is doing that I did not anticipate.  I like the whole independent little person thing.  It helps that she is cautious and takes roughly the same risks that I am okay with of course.  She is proceeding along the independence track at a speed that makes sense to me.

But that isn't all of it.

A real part of it is that I like the idea of an independent kid, one who has her own agenda, her own schedule, her own life.  I want that.  I am happy to be a part of it, but I am far more comfortable in a facilitator role where I give her the help she needs to do the things she wants to do rather than the micro manager role where I do everything and make choices for her.

I believe that it also has to do with my fundamental comfort with not knowing.  I find that some people get really disturbed by not being sure about things and panic about whether or not they made the right decision.  I am much more comfortable firing from the hip knowing that I made the best choice I could at the time and if it was wrong I will just deal with that.  A gambler's outlook, to some extent, since when you are betting you have to be comfortable with putting money on the line with imperfect information.

My information is becoming more and more imperfect each day with regards to Elli... and that is okay.

Monday, May 9, 2016

A really big sword

I saw The Edge of Tomorrow this weekend.  I loved it to pieces.  Action movie with a cataclysmic setting with cool future tech but modern enough to make it relatable; right up my alley.

It also doesn't hurt that the most badass soldier in the world is a woman wielding a gigantic sword.

See, you have to be terrified of an opponent wielding a sword in a world of guns.  Because when you see a swarm of enemies coming towards you shooting grenades and machine guns and one of them is rushing in wielding a preposterously large blade you can reach only one conclusion.

She is so dangerous and going to kill so many of her enemies that she can't even carry all the ammo she would need if she were using guns for all of her killing.  I mean, she is a badass, and obviously could carry a *lot* of ammo.  But even that large amount of ammo simply won't do to kill all the stuff she is going to kill that day.

Now that is a scary prospect.  Or a heartwarming prospect, depending on which side you are on!

The movie makes no damn sense from a science standpoint but that doesn't interfere with the enjoyment of it at all.  It doesn't try to explain physics, but happily breaks all the rules in order to tell an entertaining story.  Plus in a two hour movie having about one hour devoted to a training montage is pretty fantastic.

So ridiculous, yes.  But also fighting aliens with gigantic swords for reasons of being so awesome, for which I will forgive nearly any transgression against science.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Dangerous mathematicians

There is a new story buzzing around the internet about a mathematician who was questioned at an airport because he was writing math equations on a plane.  Another passenger thought his equations were a sign of danger, reported him to the authorities, and then of course they decided to investigate.  I am trying to imagine this conversation:

I saw a man writing in a foreign language!


But, it wasn't English.  He must be a terrorist!

So he was writing... in a language that isn't English.


And from this you concluded he is a terrorist?


At this point the conversation should have ended with "You are a racist fucknut, sit down and stop being an asshole."

Instead it ended with "We will question this man on the basis that he is writing in a non English language."

Of course it was just mathematical symbols, not a language, but that point matters not at all.  Obviously the fact that people view speaking a language that isn't English a sign of danger is wretchedly bigoted and xenophobic, but that fact that the people in charge decided this was just cause to disrupt everything for the entire plane is staggering.  Do they have a rule that if anyone thinks another person is suspicious for any reason the 'suspicious' person must be detained?

Just another sign of the ridiculous security theatre that has enveloped airplanes since 9/11.  We surrender all reason and thought and leap to 'terrorist!' without any consideration at all.  Terrorism kills less people than toddlers with guns, less people than falling television sets, less people than moose attacks.  When the excuse for paranoia is outright bigotry and nothing else it is even more embarrassing.

Friday, May 6, 2016

A rerun

The US election is shaping up to have a lot in common with the last Canadian federal election.  Despite the fact that neither nomination is officially settled, at this point it is clear that we have a Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump deathmatch on the way.  On one hand we have an awful conservative with all kinds of regressive values that I find abhorrent.  I sure wanted Harper to lose, and Trump is the same.  On the other hand we have someone who is part of a political dynasty and who has things about her I can't square.  Sure, it would be great if the US got a female president, but couldn't it be someone other than Clinton?  I wanted Trudeau to beat Harper for sure, but I also wanted a new last name in the highest office in the land.

It is tough for me when I look at these things.  One side of me is completely pragmatic, thinking that I might as well throw in my lot with the lesser of two evils.  After all, if my vote can get Trudeau into office instead of Harper, I would cast that vote in an instant.  (And I did.)

But I can't help that feel like the US is in a slightly different situation that doesn't quite justify that particular pragmatism.  Canada's political system is mired in tradition in ways I don't like, but at least we do have a bunch of different parties that get seats.  People had to pay attention to three parties at the very minimum and there are two more that got seats and at least threatened to be relevant.  If one party gets too corrupt and complacent there is always somebody nipping at their heels.

South of the border though... it isn't the same.  The two party system is so powerful, so entrenched, and so dysfunctional that blowing that apart might be worth voting for even if the vote is extremely unlikely to matter.  I can much more easily accept somebody in the US would be so angry at the current system that they would be willing to vote for revolution rather than accepting the status quo.

Which I suppose is a lot of Trump's appeal.  He is tearing down the walls of tradition, defying political orthodoxy, and making all the important people look ridiculous.  People are angry, and they love to watch him give the middle finger to the power brokers and get away with it.

All of that leads me to think that even though I voted for the lesser of two evils here (though mostly the Liberals and NDP were both pretty acceptable, though obviously flawed) I have a lot of sympathy for people who don't want to do that in the US.

Trump is an bigoted, entitled, awful asshole.  His plans ranged from flawed to idiotic.  But if someone really hates the system that much and they desperately want something else to rise from the ashes of political upheaval, I can understand thinking that voting for Trump is the way to get it.

If I were voting I would probably vote for Clinton, but if there was any kind of good third party option to vote for that would be super appealing.  If Trump does anything good it might be that - just his nomination is enough of a disruption that it might bring some change to the oligarchy that has effectively ruled the US for quite some time now.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Fly little bird

Elli is making big strides in independence this week.  First was her shopping trip to buy new toys at the toy store.  Normally I would go with her to both provide buying advice (mostly consisting of saying "you don't have enough money for that") and supervision but this time she piled all of her money into her purse and took herself off to the store to buy something.

She wasn't after any particular thing.  She just wanted to buy something all on her own.

While I find the idea of just window shopping to buy stuff without any specific need being addressed quite bizarre, it is clear the rest of the world is mostly filled with people who do exactly that.  I don't exactly know yet if Elli is one of those people who like shopping or if she is just really excited at the prospect of doing it on her own.

But she sure is excited about doing it on her own!

Just the ritual of counting up her money, carrying it herself, and being responsible for making sure the things she picked out didn't cost more than she had was clearly a thrill.  It makes me smile, because I absolutely love those moments of new independence.  The cynical part of me thinks this is because it means I don't have to take her shopping anymore, but clearly that isn't all there is.  The best parts of parenting, for me, are her growing up and running off on her own.  Away from me, to be sure, but that doesn't bother me.  That is what you do!  Take flight!

And now she has decided to go see a movie with a friend without any supervision this weekend.  I don't have to ever worry about these things with her, as by the time she is ready to ask to do such a thing I am already on board.  They have agreed to go to the movie and Elli will pay with her gift certificate and the friend will buy snacks.

(I twitched at the idea of paying a movie theatre the going prices for snacks, but I can't stop them.  Seriously kids, we have that same stuff at home for one tenth the price!)

I am so looking forward to her teenage years.

This is where people descend on me to tell me what hell teenagers are and how I will hate it.  Sorry, I don't buy it.  Some teenagers are great, and most of them are way the heck better than they were as kids.