Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Free as the wind

My last post touched a nerve, it seems.  I got a lot of comments on my critique of Guardians of the Galaxy, some inquisitive, some supportive, some critical.  One in particular was interesting because it contained the phrase:

Comedies _must_ be free to offensive, or they may become less funny, which is antithetical.

Now it is true that comedies must be free to be offensive.  I would call that a pillar of free speech, not to mention comedy!

But it is important to note that I never suggested that comedies shouldn't be free to be offensive.  They should.  I should also be free to call them out on their shit.

There is a marked difference between something being free to violate the boundaries of good taste, and something being immune to criticism.  The government is not going to start policing comedies using language I don't like, notably randomly referring to women as whores.  I wouldn't want the government to do that; in fact I would fight against any such thing.  But the government also isn't going to stop me yelling on the internet about how much I dislike randomly slinging around the word whore at women in movies for no reason.  (There are reasons to use words like that in art.  There are times and places for it, no question.  But this place in this movie was not one of them.)

This smacks of someone wanting something they like to be immune to criticism.  Both by my post and by my writing history you can see that I do not support government stepping in to censor comedies' use of language like this, so it strikes me as likely that what the commenter is really getting at is that they don't like their thing being criticized.

I get that reaction.  I have felt that way before and I conflated my desire to support a thing I liked with a violation of freedom of speech.  However, it is extremely important to differentiate these things.  It is also important to remember that just because someone's criticism of a thing makes you uncomfortable does not mean that their criticism is wrong, nor that the thing must be protected from that criticism.

There are no end of things I enjoyed in the past that have real problems upon further reflection.  That doesn't mean those things have no value, nor that I can't enjoy the good bits.  It does mean though that it is worth examining the problems that are there so we can take lessons from them, and maybe improve in future.

This situation comes up all the time, enough so that it is worth repeating.  If someone criticizes a thing, and you want to respond by saying that people have to have freedom of speech, make damn sure that the criticism actually suggested curtailing free speech.  If the criticism was just saying that the thing in question is shitty though, then you are engaging in a strawman attack and completely missing the point.  Rather than making an inappropriate free speech argument, it is probably a good idea to examine why you feel so defensive about it; usually it is because deep down you realize that the criticism has some merit.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Villains of the Galaxy

I just finished watching Guardians of the Galaxy.  It isn't new by this point, so I am going to spoil it for you.  Since it took in $635 million worldwide, it is safe to say that audiences in general really loved it.  I have a much less rosy response.

The movie has some normal superhero movie flaws.  The plot is absurd.  The villains are ludicrous and hard to take seriously.  There are plenty of points that are meant to be emotional, heartwrenching, or full of tension but instead become a joke because the writing is weak.  (Seriously, dying in space from being in hard vacuum and you save yourself by phoning someone, who picks you up in five seconds?  From across the galaxy?  Why even pretend to have a plot?)

I often enjoy interesting tech ideas in science fiction books and movies, but this one is a mess.  Some people use knives to fight, some people use laser cannons, and some people use pencils that can fly through the air and kill hundreds of enemies (and ships) in a single second.  It is ridiculous.

However, it is a superhero movie about a talking tree with magic powers, a cybernetic raccoon with super intelligence, and two random guys who don't seem to be much good at anything really, but they are in the movie anyway.

Oh yeah, also there is a woman on the team.  Which is where all the trouble starts.

See, I get that when you have an intellectual property that has a five person hero team with one female on it, you don't have gender balance.  That is the breaks, when using specific source material.  But when you are making up a universe around those heroes you could at least try a little not to have everyone be male, right?

Evidently not.

And okay, fine, the movie portrays nearly all men, but at least the female lead gets to be treated reasonably, right?  Because while I don't like the male dominated universe, surely the writers and editors wouldn't just have the sole female protagonist be the target of gendered slurs for no reason, right?

Wrong again.

For some reason the raccoon, when being introduced to the female lead, refers to her as a broad.  He could have just used the word she, he could have asked about the green skinned lady, or found some other way to refer to her.  But no, lets just slip in a gendered slur for no reason.  To establish the raccoon as a tough guy, or something.  Because it is totally worth torpedoing the female character to establish a male one, right?

Even more egregious though is a scene near the movie's end where one of the male team calls her a whore.  Not because he is angry, or because she has done something that might suggest promiscuity or sex work, but just because why not.  It is just casually tossed in there without any justification or sense.  Seriously people?  Use her fucking name!

This stuff really bothers me.  I get irritable at movies that have preposterous science sometimes.  I grump at plots that are ridiculous.  But otherwise I had a reasonably good time and suspended disbelief long enough to enjoy the ridiculous scenes and pretty visuals.

But when writers toss in garbage like that it just breaks the movie for me and makes me sad.  That shit had to go past editors and public relations people and nobody did anything about it.  Nobody even realized how unnecessary and shitty this kind of writing is.  Is there really a demographic who wants silly space romps and insists that women in them need to be randomly degraded for absolutely no reason?  Are we pandering to those assholes still?

We can do so much better than this.

Monday, August 29, 2016

The long con, safety wise

I find I evaluate safety in really different ways than most people do.  This came up a few days ago at the cottage with my inlaws when Elli and her friend wanted to take their new little kid kayak out for a spin.  Their new toy is a plastic board, basically, that floats because it is full of air.  It barely stays above water with the two of them in it, but they have an absolute blast paddling it around together.

The conflict arose because my inlaws wanted the kids to stay within a few metres of the dock and I wasn't having anything to do with that.  They both had lifejackets on and I was in the adult kayak alongside them so it would be extraordinarily unlikely for anything bad to happen, but my inlaws were still very worried and keen to keep the kids on a leash.  Instead I led them merrily out into the middle of the lake where they propmtly capsized.

Now you might think that this was me losing the prediction war, but in fact it was exactly the result I wanted.  A clear day, good supervision, no real chance of problems - that is precisely the time when you should learn what capsizing is like and how to cope with it.  I was hoping they would tip, in fact, so that they could learn how to get themselves back on board.  They managed it just fine and off we went around the lake, playing chase games and races and looking at wildlife.  They capsized yet again, and again I got them back onto their kayak.

In the end they told everyone that the best part of their adventure was the capsizing part!

I think it comes down to time horizons.  I think that long term letting kids get out there and try things and test themselves is a positive contributor to safety.  When they can try things without real risk they should, so that when they are older they will have those experiences to draw on.  Safety isn't about avoiding all behaviour that has potential negative consequences, it is about knowing what the real risks are and making sure you mitigate them as much as possible.  Tipping within sight of home while an adult is around to bail you out isn't a real risk.  Never trying anything so you end up not knowing what the hell you are doing on the water is a much greater risk in the long term, and long term is what I care about.

Plus zipping about on the lake and watching my little one make the transition from being terrified of tipping and nervous about the kayak to laughing about tipping and comfortable with the kayak is a wonderful thing.  There is really something to be said for watching your kid make big strides like that, particularly when it happens over the course of only an hour and a half.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Right, or not at all

A little while ago a group put up a bunch of statues of Donald Trump in a variety of major cities in the US.  The statues were a reasonable likeness, enough that nobody missed who they were aiming at, but they portrayed Trump naked and with a tiny penis and no balls.

A lot of people laughed at this, and mocked Trump.

Now I am all for mocking Trump - but shouldn't we mock him for the right things?  If all we can muster for insults is 'I bet you have a tiny penis' then we are pretty much admitting that we have no substantive arguments whatsoever.  Nobody but six year olds should resort to such things, especially when it is so easy to come up with real arguments as to why Trump's campaign is a catastrophe.  Plus, when we make it clear that we are happy to judge a person's ability to lead on the size and shape of their body, aren't we striking back at some really important values?

Simply put, there are so many things we can say about Trump that are so damning, we really have no excuse for insulting him about trivial things.  This is doubly true when we are insulting him in ways that we would be aghast at if things were flipped around.  If Republicans were erecting statues of Hillary with tiny breasts and laughing at her lack of sex appeal, I would be incensed, and so would most of the people mocking Trump's statues.  We should all hold ourselves to that standard no matter who the target is.

It isn't as though Trump has earned that respect or decorum.  Heck, if anyone deserves it he does... but no one deserves it.  When we make it clear that only people of a certain type of appearance are qualified, we fail any number of marginalized groups.

It isn't just about Trump.  This has broader applications.  When we campaign against something, we need to campaign against it on its merits or lack thereof, not with pointless ad hominem attacks.  When we give up on our principles in favour of partisan shrieking, why would the other side bother engaging with us at all?  Do we want to win hearts and minds, or just piss into the wind?

No question, it is hard to maintain decorum when insulting someone like Trump.  But if we want people to listen to us, if we don't want to make the world a worse place, and if we want to actually reduce the entrenched tribalism that is so much a part of our politics we simply have to be better than this.

Friday, August 19, 2016

One more

My 38th birthday was this week.  One more doddering step towards the cold darkness of the grave.

Birthdays don't actually bother me though.  Especially this one, really.  I know a lot of people get really worried about turning 40, and I am almost there, and there are a few 40 year olds who are desperate to tell me about how terrible everything is when you turn 40.

I see it the opposite way though.  I expect my 40s to be super, barring some kind of unforeseen disaster.  This birthday is kind of weird that way because I am in the best physical condition of my life.  I don't feel like I am falling apart, rather that I am getting ever better.

It makes me want to schedule a physical with my doctor.  In the past they always concluded that I seemed generally healthy but when the discussion of exercise came around I was always subject to the Disapproving Face.  Disapproving Face is that thing where the doctor tries to make you feel guilty for having good health genetically but not bothering to exercise to try to maximize it.

I have these weird visions of scheduling a physical, walking in, yelling "I get lots of exercise and am healthy and don't need to be here.  Take Disapproving Face and stuff it.  BOOM!" and running out again.

Maybe even with a smoke bomb to cover my exit, for additional style points.

I assume Disapproving Face is a deliberate strategy used by nearly all doctors, pretty much regardless of how people's physical condition looks.  Might as well try to convince them to do more.

Honestly the doctor probably won't even mind really, though obviously publicly they have to condemn that particular strategy.  It would give them a great story to tell to everyone about their wacky patient, after all.

A big chunk of this is my generally optimistic viewpoint, but it isn't just blind optimism.  The world is getting better.  Check out this video, which sums up a bunch of reasons to think that.  The money quote is "In spite of it all, hope is not misguided."

The world is good.  My life is good.  I had good people come to my place to help me celebrate my birthday, and many more who wanted to but couldn't.  That is a thing to celebrate.  Hopefully my life will also be long as well as good, because I have so many things yet to do.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016


My birthday present to myself this year is a set of tattoos.  I don't have any ink on me yet so this is new territory for me but I am really excited about it.  Over the years I have talked about the many different ideas I have had for tattoos but what I am actually going with is something new.

When I first discussed this topic I wanted a die or dice on one arm and a pair of cards on the other.  Both would be located on my inner arms, high enough up that they would be concealed by a normal long sleeve shirt.  Wendy long ago forbade me from getting aces for the cards, as she was unwilling to put up with five decades of aces up my sleeves jokes.  Fair enough, that.

However, this past year I was instead thinking of getting dragons tattooed on my back, two of them intertwined from bottom to top.  The idea was that their heads would come over my shoulders and they would be breathing fire down my arms.  The idea was really cool I think, but I ended up concluding that any tattoo that couldn't be seen in one piece was a bad idea.  I don't want to have to stand there with my arms over my head so people can see my tats!

Having made an appointment last week to get a consult about my ideas I have settled on two tattoos, one on each shoulder.  They are about 10 centimetres long, and they depict a one handed battle axe on my right shoulder and a shield with a wyvern on it on my left.  I could have gone with a sword instead but my long history with axes convinced me that I should do that instead.  They are going to look something like this:

The axe will be pretty much just as you see it.  The shield is going to be a combination of the two top shields, using the outline and textured finish of the historic shield with the wyvern on it instead of the cross and gold figures.

And yes, it is a wyvern dammit, not a dragon.  It has a barbed, poison tail!

As to why a wyvern instead of the more traditional dragon or some other thing entirely... I honestly have no idea except that obviously it has be a wyvern because wyverns are awesome.  I don't think I knew just how awesome until I contemplated getting one tattooed on my body.  These things are weird.

I am a big bundle of nerves and excitement all at once.  I think it is going to look fantastic and I look forward to being newly decorated, but it is also a lot of money and so I really want it to look good.  I am not particularly obsessive over the details, as I think the artist will probably do her best to interpret what I have put together into something great and I don't think that trying to micromanage is a good idea.  I am not an artist in this way, not at all.

Once the floodgates are open I suspect I am going to want more.  I already have ideas - a fox on my stomach, because foxes are my favourite colour and they have big fluffy tails which works with my obsession with orange capes.  For my back I am currently thinking about a female warrior in heavy armour holding two swords crossed above her head.  Thing is, there are people out there who are really anti tattoo, so once I finally get some and am over the line, I might as well go whole hog.

Plus there is probably a question about tattoos on the purity test, so I can knock my score down another point.

Interestingly my search for tattoo pictures on the internet really inspired me to continue to push my exercise routine.  The great majority of people modelling tattooes on the net are absolutely cut and I want to be the same.  Getting ripped and having cool tattoos is kind of linked in my head for some reason, so aside from a probably break to let my arms recover from the tattooing, I definitely want to keep working away at getting big arms the better to display my ink.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Cards made into a structure

I have been watching House of Cards these past few days.  I like it a lot, as Netflix said I would.  It has been pretty accurate so far in its recommendations, and I suppose eventually I can look forward to an algorithm telling me everything I ought to be watching next.  I will save plenty of thinking, when that finally comes about.

The thing that really interests me is the interaction of the two leads, a straight married couple called Claire and Frank who have an awful lot of money and power between them.  Early on in the show Frank is talking to an attractive younger woman who has put a special effort into showing off her cleavage, and Claire shows up to say hello.  After the younger woman leaves, Claire and Frank both show real disdain for her obvious attempts to look sexy and thus sway Frank's opinion.  I would expect such an interaction to feature jealousy, or at least insecurity, but Claire was utterly unmoved.  They both make it obvious that not only is there no threat there, but even the idea of it being threatening to their relationship is a joke.

I described this scene to Wendy and she felt it mirrored our own interactions.  Cleavage (or other sexy displays) certainly turn my head and get my attention.  Physical attractiveness is a thing for me.  But as an actual threat to my marriage?  Ludicrous.  That was always true through our marriage, whether or not we are talking about our monogamous beginnings or our polyamorous current situation.  Nowadays I can and do go off to have sex with people, though certainly the physical sexual attraction component is only a single factor among many.

That doesn't mean those relationships are shallow though.  The sky is the limit, really, and other relationships can be deep, meaningful, and powerful, but they just aren't a *threat* in that way that our society often assumes they must be.  People and my relationships with them can be really important to my life, but to replace Wendy?  Hah!

That interaction cuts both ways.  I have had people ask if I worry that given that we are polyamorous, that she might find someone else more interesting and leave me.  There are two reasons I don't buy into that concern.  First, monogamy is obviously not especially successful at preventing that happening (See:  The world) and secondly my towering self confidence can't admit it.  Perhaps I could be more polite and call it my towering ego instead?  In either case, who would such a person be?  I have met a lot of people, and though they so often seem so invincible, so impressive, so magnificent when viewed from afar, when you get to know them they are universally fucked up in amazing ways.

And people, I do love you.  Some more than others, obviously.  But you are all unbelievably fucked up.  Seriously, the fact that anything gets done right stuns me at times.

I am confident that most people will chalk up my certainty to irrationality, or youth, or something else like that.  Fair enough, since that is right in most cases that look similar to mine, and quite probably even in mine.  But the point isn't whether my certainty is justified by the numbers but rather simply that it exists.

People expect worry, but my actual reaction is more like this.

When I read about other poly relationships it so often revolves around all kinds of rules and constant drama.  I posit that these things are related - that lack of confidence, lack of certainty in oneself, and having relationships be dictated by that attendant fear and worry.

I watched more House of Cards, and Frank and Claire's relationship turned out to be an open one, though the dynamic is not the same as my own.  They are utterly dedicated to each other, at least so far as I have watched, but they are perfectly comfortable with each other having other lovers.  Their total belief in their union is on display regularly, where they make it clear that they simply cannot fathom someone else threatening them.  Sex and love for others, these are irrelevant in the face of the bond they share.

This fictional couple shares this one thing with me... though I share virtually nothing else with them.

I do wonder though how much of that certainty in relationships comes from the dynamic of the relationship itself and how much comes from ego.  Could I be so certain merely because I think so much of myself, and that I have placed Wendy on a pedestal?  Or is there something about the way the two of us interact that grants that certainty for much more logical and defensible reasons?

Certainly Frank and Claire both have huge egos, but they also seem to have a really strong relationship that works uniquely well for them.

Being realistic for a moment, it is obviously both to some extent for Wendy and I too.  We both have big opinions of ourselves, though it is a lot more obvious with me, but also our relationship really works.  3 fights in 14 years isn't an accident.  Probably I should tack on time there too.  Even if another person of equal overall quality to me showed up, Wendy doesn't have those 14 years of built up trust and understanding with them.  A threat would have to substantially exceed the qualities of one of us to be a threat, really, and that isn't going to be easy.

We have our struggles, compromises, tragedies, and strain.  But all relationships have those things in the long term.  The thing that makes me so certain and which gives me so much optimism is the way we cope with those things.

That Frank and Claire will have traumatic difficulties seems a given.  The show wouldn't be interesting if everything was always peachy.  But while it exists, I enjoy seeing their unshakeable certainty in themselves and each other.  It makes me smile to see it, because I want that to exist in the world.  I want people to be free to explore their passions without fear for their domestic lives.  I want people to accept this as a reasonable way to be, so people can pursue it either in the light of public scrutiny or in the dark of anonymity, whichever suits them.

Mostly I just want to be able to describe my life at parties and not have people react with a gasp and a concerned "But aren't you worried that both you are trivially replaceable?" because no, I am not.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016


This week has been bad for hair at my place.  I tried shaving my head for the first time, which took a really long time and was kind of annoying.  It was easy to get the great majority of the hair gone but actually getting my head smooth was a giant pain.  My hair grows in all kinds of screwy directions at the crown of my head and that wasn't entertaining to deal with.  Forth minutes to shave vs. five minutes to buzz it short is easy math.

It turns out I don't look all that different with a fully shaved head either.  Apparently I look like a Tough Guy (tm) but I didn't have all that much hair to shave off, so it can't be that big a deal.

The more interesting thing is that Wendy let me attack her hair with both scissors and a buzzer and that was really fun.  I buzzed her hair quite short on the sides and back but left the top long enough that it hangs down to her jawline.  If she hangs it just right, letting it fall on all sides, you can hardly tell, but if she sweeps it all off to one side it is really obvious.

Also it is *super* hot.

Years ago I don't think I would have thought that.  I used to be a big fan of long hair and I liked it when Wendy (or anyone else, really) had really long hair.  These days though my preferences have shifted and I am a big fan of the half buzzed, half long look.

It makes me wonder why my preferences have shifted this way.  The obvious answer is that I dated Val for over a year and they had that sort of look for much of that time but obvious answers are not always right, and correlation is not causation.  Perhaps it is my general shift towards non conformity showing up, and half buzzed, half long isn't really corporate standard.  Over the past decade or so I have definitely drifted away from the mainstream.  I wasn't exactly obedient and compliant before... but that trait is more pronounced in me now and maybe I am manifesting that by being more attracted to looks that step outside the established norms.  This change in hair preferences has come along with an increased appreciation for tattoos, though whether they are linked is anybody's guess.

The tactile properties of buzzed short hair are part of the draw too; it isn't just about the visuals.  I like running my hands over really short hair a lot, more than makes any sense to my logical brain.  It is a real thing for me, and I honestly can't say if it is something I just never experienced in my young life but I always would have gone for it, or if it is something new.  Being really into it visually is a more modern thing, but I didn't spend a lot of time running my hands over close cropped heads in my youth, so who knows?

I lack concrete conclusions here.  I know what I like now, but I don't know where that came from.  I know I like it on all kinds of people, whether they be people I am emotionally entangled with, random people I meet, or even just those I see in shows or on the web.  But I want to know WHY.

My brain needs an instruction manual.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

My team

Your average person finds the idea of being an extreme fan of a football team normal, but would usually think of being an extreme fan of a Youtube personality a lot more bizarre.  I have seen a lot of people who are happy to watch sports on TV question why anyone would watch someone play video games online, but the two things are very similar.  In both cases you could go do the activity yourself, but instead you watch someone much more skilled do it instead.  Everyone knows about Toronto Maple Leaf fans, but not a lot of people know that all kinds of gaming focused Youtubers have the same sort of thing.

Brian Kibler, a Hearthstone streamer, welcomes people to the club when they subscribe by saying "Welcome to the Dragon Army.  I appreciate your support."

Rhykker, a Diablo 3 player, says something very similar, in that he welcomes people in as part of Rhykker's Raiders.

Also, an aside:  Rhykker has the sexiest voice I have ever heard on a human.  He doesn't do anything for me visually, but that voice.... spalooosh.

Both of these people are basically trying to establish long term support by making people like they are part of a team.  That being part of that team requires nothing more than a desultory click, and that Rhykker / Kibler don't know the person at all, hardly seems to matter.  They are both successful at what they do.  It isn't any different from Maple Leaf fans, of course, since players on the Maple Leafs have no idea who individual fans are, and all you have to do to join the club is fork over some cash for random Maple Leaf swag and you are in.

It all makes me laugh.  I watch videos by Rhykker and Kibler sometimes because I like their content, but the idea of being all excited about joining the team is pretty hilarious to me.  It is exactly the way I find sports fans bizarre - I just don't get the thing where you identify so totally with a group or individual that gives precisely no shits about you in return.  I just don't do that whole team thing the way so many people seem to.

Which brings me to Firebat, who is a Hearthstone streamer and Youtuber much like Kibler is.  Firebat has a team thing too, but the way he says it is amazing.

"Thanks for the subscription, and welcome to the BatCave Team Thing.  I appreciate your support."  He has a team, because you have to have a team for people to join to maximize your earnings, but he so obviously finds the idea ridiculous that he can't even just say it.  He puts a Thing on the end of the team because of the fundamental absurdity of the proposition.  Looking at his face when he says it I really think he does appreciate people enjoying his content and likes doing what he does, but can't quite get past the marketing required.

I am with you there Firebat.  It is absurd that this is how you need to act to make it all work, and it is ridiculous that it works even when you are obviously mocking it as you go along.

Friday, August 5, 2016


I am back from the World Boardgaming Championships.  It would be easy to summarize my trip in terms of measureable accomplishments, for example by saying that I got two 2nd place finishes, but I don't think that such a measurement does the experience justice.  Doing well in challenging events is fun and I liked it, no doubt, but the really important thing I got from my experience there was the connections I made.

I met so many interesting people!  It was tremendous fun to sit down with new folks who were really good at games and have discussions about how various games work, what strategies people favour, and how people thought about games.  It was especially interesting because sometimes you can get stuck in a single mindset because of how your local group plays and talking to people from all over can let you see how strategies shift when the metagame shifts.  There was a lot of "But that strategy is nuts because people always do X!" which was often met with "My group doesn't do X, they do Y!" and then you need to rethink everything you know.

Some of these people I may see regularly, but the great majority will just be Facebook friends that I get to see once a year when and if I go back to WBC.  I want to go back, no question on that, but it is a tough thing to arrange.  Wendy sometimes works crazy hours so handling Elli while I vacate the country for nine days can be a rough thing.  My parents were great for taking Elli this year, but I can't just count on that being a thing that always works!

It was kind of neat how I would hang out with a person for awhile, decide that they were my kind of person, and then immediately latch onto whoever else was already in their circle.  Many times these sorts of connections were made, and they almost always worked out really well, which was fun.

One thing I will have to do to prepare for next year is learn some more games.  I did really well in a few events but had to skip the semifinals because they conflicted with something else important.  There were also a lot of time slots that had nothing in them for me because I didn't know how to play any of the games.  I need to spend some time learning another ten games or so that will feature at WBC next year so I can more easily sit down at something no matter what day and time it is.  That was pretty much the strategy this year - I wanted to win a game called Puerto Rico, so everything else was below that in priority, but otherwise I just showed up to whatever seemed fun at the time.  Amusingly I did poorly in Puerto Rico and got my plaques in games I either didn't know at all or considered myself quite weak at.

I really like the plan of just sitting down to play whatever seems good at the time.  Sometimes there were great conversations I didn't want to end, or just random games going on in the Open Gaming hall.  Being stuck on attending a particular game doesn't seem like the right call for me.

More than anything WBC reminded me of my days in the Comfy Lounge at university.  Gamers everywhere, all kinds of games available at all times, and so many people that both got along with me and also could push me to be better.  A truly happy place, and so good for me.