Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Nice house

This Christmas I got to see my brother in law's new place.  He and his wife have a huge house in the suburbs, in the sort of place where the idea of a pedestrian is laughable and the driveways are full of expensive, new vehicles.

I had no idea how to talk about the house.

I know I am supposed to say it is a nice house.

And it certainly is pretty, tidy, and well built.  No denying any of that!  But it makes me feel so odd to be in such an enormous place.  Six bathrooms.  So many ovens.  Two washer and dryer sets, only a dozen steps from one another.

My brain is saying that nobody needs all this stuff and all this space.  More than that, the money involved in making these ridiculous extras (the extra washer and dryer is the thing I can't get over) could have done so many more useful things for people with so much less money.

It isn't as though my brother and sister in law have done anything wrong - they earned their money, they bought a gigantic house that they are really excited about.  It is more that being in such a place really slams home to me just how warped the system is that people have so much, especially since they aren't even the super wealthy.  They don't have ten million dollars, much less 100 billion dollars.  Their wealth is nothing compared to some, and they are just existing in a system they did not create.

But it still leaves me at a loss.  To ignore it, to just pay bland compliments, feels like being complicit in the extreme disparity of wealth in the world.  On the other hand I can't see how I help anything by turning a house tour into a rant about wealth inequality either.

If I am honest, it is also just an artifact of how much money I have.  I know plenty of people who must feel the same way seeing my condo simply because I own it and they see no prospect of ever having that much wealth for themselves.  Any time you are out of your element in terms of social status and wealth it feels weird.

Am I just creating all this because I feel strange being around people who have so much more than me?  Maybe.  Hard to say. 

Monday, December 24, 2018

Small family Christmas

For many years now I have always done the big family Christmas thing.  Sometimes I was up north with my parents, sometimes I was in Toronto with Wendy's parents, but we invariably did the big thing.

Not this year.

We did a family celebration with Wendy's family on the 23rd, but for the 25th it will just be me, Pinkie Pie, and Wendy.  We are going to sit at home, play some Gloomhaven together, and make homemade pizza.

It is a watershed moment for my inlaws, I suspect, since they have always done family Christmas on the 25th with all the family that is available.  We just want to do something different, and honestly more our speed.  My little family has 3 introverts and we really enjoy just doing quiet things. 

Sometimes kids want all the things and all the fuss, but our small one (not so small, really, since she is now as tall as Wendy) likes minimal fuss.

We have our little tree with just a few presents under it.  It really feels like it matches us as a group, this year, because we are doing a little Christmas.

I am looking forward to a little Christmas a great deal.  :)

Friday, December 14, 2018

A good role model

I struggle sometimes with talking about polyamory and relationship anarchy when they happen to be combined with problems I have.  When you are part of a marginalized group there is tremendous pressure to present the best possible face to the world, to convince them that there is nothing wrong with you.  When a monogamous person says they are sad because of a breakup, for example, they have no worries at all that people will say "Well, this is what you get when you are monogamous.  Your own fault, really."  People in other relationship structures hear this kind of thing all the time, because people love to find excuses to punish those who do not conform.

The same sort of thing applies to all kinds of people, of course.  Disabled people, queer people, the list goes on.  The pressure to provide a 'perfect' front so as to avoid criticism is real.

I read a blog post today by a well known poly blogger talking about this subject as it relates to their struggles with anxiety.  I liked it because it felt like it mirrored my own experience with being told that I have to shut up because telling my truth in my own space was somehow dangerous to other people.  Really it is just dangerous to the current social order but quite frankly the current social order can use some shaking up so that is an upside to me, not a downside.

When I am pushed to shut up, to hide, to lie, to cover up, it makes me furious.  Director is willing to blend, to bend, to accommodate, but Passion lights up with incandescent rage at the idea.  When I am asked to stop talking to spare other people's feelings about my life Passion just wants to paint my words on the side of a skyscraper instead.  You don't like reading about my life?  Then don't.  You want me to shove myself into a corner so my life is more acceptable to you?  Get used to disappointment or leave, either way.

I am lucky though.  I have tons of privilege so people are mostly not willing to have that fight with me.  Also the people in my life are largely aware that trying to control me like that will lead to nothing good so they generally don't bother.

It is good to read about other people in the same situation.  It helps provide some extra certainty that I am doing the right thing, and some days I need that.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

A sad song

I broke up with The Flautist recently.  I haven't been blogging much here in part because that has been occupying my mind a lot and I wasn't sure how to talk about it.  It is difficult and sad, but it was the right thing to do for me.  I have some guilt, for sure, about the hurt I am causing.  Despite that though, not doing so would just make a bigger mess for later, so I won't do that.

A challenge has been the way I think about breakups.  I often say that people don't change, and you shouldn't be in a relationship expecting them to.  Accept that how they are is how they will be.  That isn't exactly true, of course, as people do change.  But if they generally changed for the better, then old people would be paragons in relationships.  They would fulfill their partners and communicate flawlessly and make it all wonderful.  We all know that old people are bad at relationships the same way that young people are though, so clearly there isn't a big trend towards improvement.  While partners may change, they will as likely change in ways you don't like as ways you do.

This way of thinking creates its own problems.  I don't yell and scream and demand my partner do things differently.  I say what I want and how I feel, but it isn't a big mess.  That is usually appreciated, but it can fail to get my message across when I really don't like something.  I can't be in a relationship that requires me to have emotional explosions to communicate how I feel, but when many or even most people are used to communicating that way, my messages get lost.  If my partner is doing things that hurt me, I either decide I can deal with it, or I leave.  No explosions or ultimatums.  Not my style.

I am really not interested in assigning blame.  I find that many people love to hate their exes, and I don't hate any of mine.  My attitudes range from fondness (even love) to indifference, but no anger is to be found.  Surely there is fault in everyone, no one is without error, and trying to cast all the blame on one person (whether or not it is yourself, or the other person) is usually just a sign of insecurity, not reflective of fact.

I prefer to think of it like this:  It was good.  Until it wasn't.  And now that it isn't good any more, it is time to be away from it.  That doesn't mean the relationship can never be rekindled, but it does mean at a minimum that space apart is needed to approach a new beginning cleanly.

There is one particular song that speaks powerfully to me when I am feeling this way:

Monday, December 10, 2018

New normal

The first time a giant ball of steel swinging from a long chain came within 4 meters of my window I was somewhat perturbed.  It is kind of unnerving to watch a thing that is hanging loose and which would crush me flat if it hit me wander so close by.  Makes you wonder if the person driving the crane *really* knows what they are doing.  I mean, I assume they are competent.  But am I going to die ten seconds from now?

But that happened months and months ago.  Now the crane wanders right past my window all the time and I barely even register it.

Just like cars, really.  If you take a person who has no idea about cars and tell them they are going to zoom down a road at 100 kph in a metal box and other metal boxes going 100 kph the other way are going to pass within a meter of them they would think you are suicidal.  What if the person driving the other box twitches, just for a second?  Doesn't everybody die?  Can you really trust all the random buffoons in the human race not to kill you?

Mostly you can, it turns out.  Some of us die, but generally we barrel down our highways, zooming right past each other, and everything works.

We tend to get upset about things changing, but when we don't manage to push them back we rapidly come to accept the new normal, no matter how weird it would have seemed before, and just shrug and stop noticing.

I wonder what things I currently take for granted will suddenly strike me as bizarre when I finally stare at them really hard.  Sometimes I look at my phone and try to remember what it was like to not have one and I can barely do it.

Which is all to say that I continue to be surprised by humanity's flexibility.  We so often hate change, but then we quickly adapt and not only stop caring, but even stop noticing the stuff that is new.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

I need more filth

My new routine, which I outlined in my previous post, seems to be working.  I have determined that I need to work out, clean things, shop, and write every day before I take any time to goof off on the internet.  Elli is on a similar routine and that structure seems to be a good one, despite the rocky start and initial shock.

I have a problem though.

My condo isn't dirty enough.  After five days of mandatory cleaning time the bathroom is sparkling.  I can't just throw another cleaning session at it, so today I cleaned the stove.  It has been a long time since I did that, and honestly I don't even remember how long.  But it isn't 'oh, was it January or February when I cleaned it last?' but rather more like 'Have I cleaned this thing since my kid was born twelve years ago?'

The stove is clean now.  Sort of.  I mean, twelve years of baked on stuff doesn't come off easy, but it is certainly cleaner than yesterday.

But I am running out of things I should clean.  There will be many days yet where I can find something that needs it but it has become clear that I have at most a month of reasonably useful cleaning before I will be doing absolutely pointless busywork. 

I just need somebody to come by my place and dump a potful of dirt on my floor every day so I can spend fifteen minutes cleaning up the mess and then proceed to gaming with my conscience free and clear.

Anyone want to volunteer?

Sunday, November 25, 2018


I have been struggling these past few weeks with structure.  I have been playing Civilization 6, and it has had me One More Turning late into the night at times.  I have also been unable to keep on top of my duties at home, and have found myself desperately rushing off to the store to get ingredients for dinner and serving dinner late because I was too absorbed. 

It isn't good.

I mean, the game is great.  I get so into it, and that feels wonderful.  But I gotta stop throwing the rest of life by the wayside to get my fix.

Pinkie Pie has been in a similar situation.  She struggles with mornings and so she wants to watch a few videos when she wakes up.  I am fine with her doing this, but it always ends up being a mess.  She watches too much, and doesn't want to interrupt a video in the middle, and we get stuck where I run back and forth between what I am doing and her, trying to get her to do things.

Also not good.

So we are embarking on a new program.  Both of us will have to do all of our daily chores before we can do our computer based goofing off.  Reading, writing, exercise, and learning for her.  Writing, weight lifting, cleaning, and shopping for me.  Unless all those things are done I will not be doing my internet goofing off.  I can't cheat - I have to find something significant and clean it every day, even if nothing is sticking out.

I feel so much better having set this up.  I want to lose myself in a game, and if I consistently make sure my chores are all done beforehand I can do so without remorse or regret.

Pinkie Pie is less enthusiastic.  I think us doing this together will help though, as I won't be enforcing rules on her that I am not willing to follow myself.  Hopefully we don't have to fight too much about it.

Monday, November 19, 2018

The unthinkable

I am going to do something that is normally unthinkable for me:  I am going to applaud the leader of Ontario's Conservative Party.  Doug Ford is a dangerous idiot with too much power, but today he did the right thing.

The Ontario Conservative Party passed a motion at their annual meeting to debate removing all references to gender identity from Ontario's sex education curriculum.  It is sad that this passed at all, but not surprising - the Conservative Party is the de facto home for all of the best types of bigotry.  They didn't just want to control how the subject is addressed, they wanted it completely banned. 

You know you are doing it wrong when you decide that the thing to do is use the law to prevent children from learning about how some people feel.  It is right up there with "we are going to burn all of the books" on the list of things you should be worried about advocating.

But our premier decided to quash that completely and made it clear he will do anything he can to prevent this even being debated, much less implemented.  Good! 

He isn't doing this because he is a decent person, obviously.  It is a calculated move to keep the rabid bigot base of the Conservatives from blowing up his chances at reelection.  He knows that most people are largely against these sorts of things, and that he will be correctly painted as an intolerant asshole in the next election.  Adding ammunition to those charges is not a thing he wants.  He needs to be just enough of a bigot to please his base, but not so much that he pisses off the middle ground who are willing to put up with *some* evil, but not *too much* evil.

You have to sneak these sorts of things in under the guise of helping, by carefully making up nonsense about how the old curriculum wasn't giving parents 'choice'.  This resolution was too obviously bigotry, and the public won't stand for that.  They insist on their oppression being wily and stealthily coming in the side window.  Knocking on the front door and saying 'Delivery of evil for Ontario' won't fly.

So yeah, Doug Ford did something right for all the wrong reasons.  Yay!

Friday, November 9, 2018

That time I was a god

A few weeks ago I was a god among mortals.

Only for about an hour or so, though.

I wasn't omnipotent or omniscient.  I didn't even have any adventures worthy of an epic story that could serve as a creation myth for a whole culture.

I was a god in the sense that I had shed the terrible things that forever weigh down mere mortals - fear, doubt, and worry.  Being a god isn't about the ability to create worlds or live forever, it is just about setting aside negative feelings and exulting in being yourself, being entirely, totally happy with who you are and what you will do.  It is about being enough.

Becoming a god didn't require radiation, dark matter, ambrosia, or a scientific experiment gone wild.  All it took was trying a new substance to achieve an altered mental state.  I will call said substance M.

I always have a division in my brain.  I am both Director and Passion, cold and hot, detached and engaged, thinking and being.  Usually though Director is in charge, and it is quite difficult to get him to let go and let Passion run the show.  Even when that happens Director is hovering there, not letting Passion quite have full control.  However, M allowed Passion to assume command completely and without reservation.

I looked around the world and saw all those people running from place to place desperately trying to placate their terrors.  They fretted about abandonment, about failure, about suffering.  I was no longer among them, no longer one of them, because I no longer shared that most basic of drives - the desire to minimize my own distress.  Because I *had* no distress.  About anything.

It turns out that feels a lot like being a god.  In fact, I told people at the time that I was a god among mortals.  I knew that if I was stabbed I would bleed.  I knew that if I acted silly people would laugh at me.  I knew that I could die.  I wasn't confused about physics.

But none of that *mattered*.

I had no fear, doubt, or disbelief.  I had freed my mind.

I knew I couldn't jump from building to building though.  You can only do that in movies.

But there simply was no worry.  Sure, if I fell off a building I would die.  That seems like a bad idea.  Living is more fun than dying.  But there was no fear there.  None.  Only mortals worry about death.

I didn't feel the urge to run out and do things.  No need, really.  I was supremely satisfied with just sitting there, basking in the knowledge that I am all that I need to be.  When I got hungry, I ate.  I didn't worry that I needed to offer other people food.  That is *their* problem to solve.  When I wanted to just stand in the middle of the room and stretch because that felt good, well I did just that, without concern that other people might want to use the middle of the room.

Other people don't like Passion as well as they like Director.  Passion is impulsive and self absorbed.  He bears no one any ill will - after all, why would a god bother having a grudge against a mere mortal? but he isn't someone who will offer you lots of support when you need it.  Director is generally a likeable person because he tries hard to smooth things over, avoid conflicts, and help everyone else get what they need.

Passion doesn't want to avoid conflicts.  Why would he?  He isn't worried about winning you over to his side, since you are welcome to disagree with him and be wrong.  He doesn't need your affirmation to feel good and secure.  Ants may well be sure that the world is flat, but the opinions of ants are irrelevant.

But apparently Passion is pretty hot.  Confidence is sexy, and nobody has more confidence than him.  He does the bad boy thing perfectly.  He is happy if you want to join his party, but if you don't he won't be the least bit bothered, because he can party by himself without feeling the least bit self conscious.  That certainty, that unshakeable belief in self, ensures that he won't have to party alone.

The people with me were somewhat worried.  Was this the new normal?  Is this just how Sky acts now?

No, it isn't.  This isn't some new thing that has just appeared and taken over.  This is just a pure manifestation of something that has always been there.  That perfect confidence, that godlike assurance, is buried deep in me.  Passion is always there, usually in his cage, pacing, waiting to get out.  Director keeps him there so he doesn't cause trouble.  But nothing that happened when I tried M was a surprise - I knew that was all there for a long time now.  All that changed was that Director was able to let go and simply back away, allowing Passion to *be*.

For all those fretting that I am going to be addicted to something new, stop.  It has been weeks, M has extremely low risk, and while it was fun and I will do this again sometime I am not going to suddenly become a junkie.  I just tried something new and it was a powerful experience.  Not something that will happen every day.

It does make me wonder though.  Could I be Passion totally and completely without any assistance from M?  Is there a way I could design my life so that I can be a god all of the time, instead of just a tiny fraction of the time?  I tend to think not.  Hell, it probably isn't even a good idea, but it is an appealing one.  Divinity is apparently within my reach, and if the stories are any indication mortals are really bad at resisting the temptation to taste of the nectar of the gods.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

From scratch

Since this September I have been homeschooling Pinkie Pie.  It is a challenging process, in large part because the struggles that she had with school are only partially solved by being at home.  She still does not deal well with mandatory routines, or producing work, or mornings.  Homeschooling is better than regular schooling for her so we are continuing on this track.

It is better than I had thought though, especially as my mental health goes.  I had real worries that this was going to be a disaster for me leaving me miserable and trapped.  Being home with my kid all day every day isn't my ideal, no doubt, but it hasn't been as rough as I anticipated.

We have iterated through a few different ways of teaching math and the current one is a hit.  Pinkie Pie is playing Prodigy, an online RPG where you play a wizard wandering about the world doing standard fantasy type quests.  The trick is that you have to correctly solve a math problem every time you want to cast a spell at the enemies.  Prodigy covers a huge range of different math types and seems like it is carefully engineered to test the entire standard school math curriculum.  An advantage of using this sort of program is that it doesn't have to stick to a fixed grade level.  It adjusts constantly based on how many wrong answers the user inputs and it has already moved Pinkie Pie up to grade 8 math.  This was a real surprise to me because she missed half of grade 6 math with her problems in school but she is learning at a tremendous rate.  Prodigy does need me to step in and teach her how things work rather than just how to get the correct answers but it is an amazing tool; far superior to the other systems we have tried.

We have also recently signed her up for an outdoor nature recreation type program once a week.  They focus on environmental stewardship, survival skills, learning about nature, and playing games outdoors.  If nothing else it is a good way to get her a lot of exercise, and I think she will get a lot more out of it than that.

This process has certainly made me appreciate my financial position.  We aren't wealthy by any means but we are in a position to sign Pinkie Pie up for extra programs when she shows interest.  We have enough money to keep me at home to teach her, rather than just sending her to school to be miserable in a heap.  That is a degree of monetary stability a lot of people don't have, and doing this is giving me an appreciation for it.

It isn't perfect.  I still need more alone time and more of a break than I am getting.  I am still not doing a nearly good enough job and I have to pour more energy into structure and keeping Pinkie Pie on track.  These things are at odds though, which is hard.  Doing all the normal homemaker stuff, educating, doing fun things, workout time, and getting my introvert time just doesn't leave sufficient hours in the day for things like sleep.

I feel stretched.  Not as stretched as I thought I would be at the outset though, so that is a good thing.  Hopefully with more practice at it I will get better and we will both find a way through our troubles.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

I wish for better advertising

I saw a poster in my local grocery store that showed a picture of a woman with a child, and talked about 'raising a food lover'.  The store also has all the employees wear shirts that say 'we love food'.

The marketing personnel who came up with this really ought to be ashamed of themselves.  You know who loves food?  Nearly everyone.  Do you know what a grocery store has to offer in terms of turning your child into a food lover?  Nothing.  People become food lovers because evolution demands it.  You know what happened to all the people who hate food?  They died.  They did not produce many children. 

The 'we love food' thing is the marketing equivalent to unflavoured oatmeal.  Gray, slimy, tasteless garbage.  I wish they would actually say something, anything, to provide me information. 

"We sell substandard food for cheap but the place looks like crap!"

"Our food is expensive but we have lots of employees handing out free samples and fancy music!"

"All of our food is locally sourced!"

These are all actual information that might bring me to a store, if I like their thing.  But instead they are trying to feed me rubbish designed to be inoffensive and boring.  It is like a politician saying 'I want to help struggling families' or a dating profile bragging 'I like travel and I am looking for someone kind and smart'. 

All of them are just wide open displays of cowardice.  Say something real.  Be vulnerable.  Share information!  These desperate attempts to pander to everyone while informing no one get me spitting mad.

Buckley's company message is one I can get behind.  "It tastes terrible, but it works."  +1 to their marketing team, sticking to a message that tells the consumer real things about the product.

Political signs boil my bodily fluids the same way.  They have a simple message - a name.  They don't tell me anything about a candidate, their positions, their record, or anything else.  All I can derive from political signs is that the candidate 1.  Has access to money to buy signs.  and 2.  Has at least one person who likes them.  Having access to money does not tell me anything good about a candidate, and given how the last provincial election went here I would be tempted to vote against someone on that basis if that is all I have available.  We could really use some poor people in office for a change.  Knowing that someone is willing to put that sign on their lawn is also worthless - the politicians I hate have plenty of supporters willing to do that.

It all points to just how much of a farce some of our core concepts of democracy and capitalism are. People don't make sensible economic decisions to benefit themselves.  They buy whatever garbage advertising has associated with curvaceous asses, adorable children, or monetary success.  Voters are swayed by vacuous promises, meaningless appeals to happy feelings, and signs with people's names on them.

Sure, we do make decisions here and there that are truly informed and reasonable.  But advertising works, political lawn signs matter, and a pretty photoshopped face is all you need to sell snake oil.

Thursday, October 25, 2018


The messages our culture sends about female sexuality are a mess.  In large part they are completely wrong, and they almost universally assume that our cultural norms are universal instead of arbitrary.  For example, the idea that straight women just want a man who is a good provider, steady, and reliable while straight men want a woman who is young and attractive is wildly off base.  Women aren't really in it for the sex, we often hear, they just put up with the sex in order to get the other benefits of relationships like security and support.

I bought into these stereotypes when I was young.  They came cloaked in 'science' and a Darwinian understanding of nature.

But then I had sex with a bunch of women, and talked with a bunch of women, and noted that these stereotypes did not well explain the women who were desperately horny, the women who had male partners who weren't interested in sex, and the women who wanted all kinds of wild, kinky sexy stuff that had nothing to do with safety or sustenance.

Plenty of women want sex, (though obviously some do not, which is true of any and all genders) and the myth that women are mostly asexual is just another consequence of patriarchy.

I read Untrue recently and it ably covered the reasons to think that women's sexuality is wildly misunderstood, and happily smashed most of the standard stereotypes to bits.

Wednesday Martin attacks the issue from multiple angles.  She includes lots of science and interviews with experts to bolster her credentials but also talks about her personal experiences with infidelity and desire.  She goes to polyamory conferences to discuss open relationships, attends sex parties for mostly straight women who want to try out sex with women, and otherwise pushes her own boundaries surrounding her monogamous commitment to her husband.

One of the core theories in the book is the idea that the plough and how its development and use affected women's sexual liberation and general autonomy.  It turns out that societies that used ploughs relegated women to a much lower status that societies that did not, probably because of the high upper body strength requirements and issues with child rearing that came along with use of the plough.  The issue is probably more complicated than Martin makes it out to be, but I completely buy into the general thesis that specific styles of agriculture changed society in ways that were bad for women and the problems that those styles of agriculture created remain tenacious to this day.

If you are interested in understanding the history of women's sexuality and examining what science tells us about it, I highly recommend this book.  It is accessible and easy to read while be well researched and informative.  I like the line it walks between trying to be fun and provocative while being strict about the truth.

There is one thing that bothered me though, and it isn't specific to Untrue.  So often in conversations about relationships and sexuality people seem desperate to bring primate behaviour into the mix.  We seem to need to talk about bonobos and their orgies, bisexuality, and promiscuity to justify such behaviours in humans.  A large part of Untrue is dedicated to studies of primate behaviour that strongly support the idea that female sexuality in other species is NOT passive, straight, monogamous, or secondary to male sexuality.  However, this whole thing about primates is just a diversion from the key facts:

1.  Humans having relationship structures that aren't straight, monogamous, or vanilla isn't a problem for other people.

2.  People doing stuff that isn't a problem for other people should be left to do their stuff without interference or harassment.

We don't need to justify our relationships or sexuality by proving it is 'natural' because other primates do it.  We don't need to prove that we aren't the only species that wants to do all these things, because even if we were the only species that had orgies or queer sexualities it would still be fine for us to do it.

If some fool tries to tell people that women shouldn't be promiscuous because females don't do that in nature you can be all scientific and tell them 'LOL wrong!' or you can just circumvent that argument entirely and say 'so the fuck what?'  It is false, but even if it were true it wouldn't be relevant.

It is all well and good to study primates, but let us not think that we need primate behaviour to tell us how we ought to treat one another, or what the range of acceptable human behaviour should be.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Down low evil

I went to vote today in Toronto's municipal election.  There are times when I vote and I am excited, thinking that the person I am voting for might win, that change might be in the air.

Not so today.

John Tory is the mayor of Toronto, and as of this morning he was polling at 60%, with his nearest opponent polling at 30%.  You can see that there isn't a lot left for anyone else, so I have no doubt that Tory will be the mayor of Toronto again, despite the fact that I did not vote for him.

I can't tell whether Tory is an improvement over his predecessor.  The previous mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford, was an international laughingstock - the crack smokin' mayor of Toronto.  He was a jackass, a buffoon, and a terrible mayor.

Tory isn't an international laughingstock.  He is bland, boring, and if a person could be beige in character, Tory is.  When asked to reveal a secret about himself, he responded that he had played trumpet in a band in his early years.

Trumpet.  How... exciting.

Tory has plenty of terrible policies, but he knows how to mutter platitudes and be inoffensive.  It seems like a huge upgrade over Ford's endless disaster, but I can't help but wonder if that is true.  Ford got sidelined in council and largely ignored, but Tory has managed to keep lots of people on his side and I have no doubt that he is being effective.  Unfortunately for the people of Toronto he is being effective in the traditional conservative fashion - push to solve problems by lowering taxes and hiring police.

Ford made progressives like me sad in a bright, savage way.  We were so upset by his blatant evil that we tripped over ourselves trying to hate him more than the next person.  The sadness Tory brings is a trembling, grinding sadness.  A sense that his kind of terrible governance is inevitable, unstoppable.  We can't rally the middle against him because he is careful to not upset them.  Ford could be easily called a disgrace, but that is a harder word to stick to Tory, no matter how much you might believe it.

The world does continue to get better.  I believe that, without doubt.  But I can't help but be discouraged that Tory is able to so easily get by simply by virtue of not being anywhere near as offensive as the previous mayor.  I wish the bar were higher than that.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

A taste of the high life

I have always thought of personal trainers as one of those things that rich people do.  A luxury mostly afforded by celebrities and CEOs with lots of cash and no time.  Certainly a thing I would never have for myself.

Yesterday I had a session with a personal trainer for the first time and I gotta say I understand the appeal.

I didn't actually pay for it, of course.  I haven't suddenly become the sort of person that spends money for luxuries!  Last year at a charity auction I found a workout package that had a bunch of stuff in it that I wanted, and along with it came 3 personal training sessions.  The whole thing cost about the amount I would pay just for the physical objects normally, so I bought it and I finally got around to using the training just this week.

This first workout left me really sore.  There are multiple reasons, but high on the list is that I push myself harder when there is someone else around to see.  I don't want to be that sort of person, but I have to admit that I slack off a little when it is just me around.  I cap out at 31 pushups on my own, but when the trainer told me to do pushups so he could check my form I cranked out 35 - social pressure is a force to be reckoned with.

It wasn't purely social though.  The trainer got me to do exercises in ways that I am not used to and his way of doing things burned my muscles a whole lot more than my way.  Instead of just yanking the weights through the distance with my arms he got me using my whole body.  I am sure that doing it his way is a far better workout long term because everything we did used a whole variety of muscles and burned me down in places I am not used to feeling it.

I like this whole personal trainer thing!  I don't need it for the motivation to get into the gym, that part I have nailed down.  But the motivation to do all the exercises properly, to keep my form on point, this is a useful thing for me.  When I am alone I just get the reps done rather than take the extra mental effort to constantly evaluate exactly *how* I am getting the reps done.

I have often said that if I won a lot of money I wouldn't know how to spend it usefully.  I suppose that is slightly less true now - if I suddenly got rich, I think occasional personal training lessons would be great.

But I am not rich.  So until that changes I will just take my lessons when they are free.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Never ever enough

Round numbers have a lot of appeal.  I imbue them with extra importance in my workout regimen, and big numbers divisible by ten somehow become gateways to greatness, benchmarks that will tell me when I am finally strong and powerful.

That feeling of hitting a new benchmark is great, but it never lasts.

I have been doing sets of 28 pushups for most of this year, from about April to August.  I realized that I had gotten in a rut and I decided to increase my frequency from working out 2 out of every 3 days to working out every day at the start of September.  At the start of October I increased all my rep counts by 10%, which put my pushups to 31 per set.

For so long I recall distinctly the idea in my head that 30 pushups a set is the amount a strong person would do.  When I got there, I thought, I would finally be big and strong and powerful.  That first set of 31 felt great, and there was a rush of triumph and a sense of real progress.  Two days later I went back to the gym and did 31 again, and my brain told me that seriously strong people do 40 pushups.  Maybe someday I would get there, but for now, I am not strong.

Talk about moving the goalposts!  I barely got 2 days of satisfaction and exhilaration at my progress and I was back to striving for another completely arbitrary goal.

This is just the way I am it would seem.  No matter the strength, no matter the size, I feel skinny.  I see muscular men out in the world and wish I had arms like they do.  Hell, I probably do have arms like many of them, but I just can't see it.

I knew all of this ahead of time.  This isn't the first time I have noted that my self perception doesn't change with my body, and my ideal appearance is unobtainable.  What surprised me was just how *fast* that transformation from celebration to inadequacy happened.  I figured I would get at least a couple of weeks of good feelings!

Working out is good for me though.  I need exercise and this is the only regimen that has ever stuck.  I am sure that working out hard has improved my mood and longevity, even though those changes are things I can't see or measure.  Given that, I might as well think of my neverending, unquenchable need for progress as a useful tool for getting me into the gym day after day.  It is foolish and puts my irrationality front and centre, but it does make my life better, so I might as well run with it.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Serious Medicine

I was at a marijuana dispensary earlier this week, and what I saw there amused me to no end.  I wasn't actually buying MJ myself, just accompanying someone else to get her own supply.  I was under the impression, prior to going, that dispensaries were regulated and serious, supplying medicine to people who needed it.  Also they were clearly just selling to anyone who wanted to pay.  However, I expected some sort of cursory screening process and at least a pretense of officialness.

I didn't even get a pretense.

The dispensary had a board of daily specials.  Now I may not be any kind of medical expert, but I feel like daily special such as "Hash Wednesdays!" aren't quite selling the 'serious medicine' thing.  Nor was the plate of cookies, the trance music, or the checkout clerk vaping in the corner.

I don't mind any of that of course.  MJ shouldn't be illegal and there is no compelling reason why people should have to jump through crazy hoops to get it.  It should be sold with just as much hucksterism as anything else.

But that contrast between the fact that MJ is clearly being sold as a recreational drug and the official line that it is still illegal here is staggering.  The government is maintaining the line that MJ is dangerous and that it is under control so that all the pearl clutchers can stop worrying about reefer madness while at the same time officials basically ignore MJ being sold openly.  We have this foolish, destructive, hypocritical system that can't decide if MJ should just be lightly regulated and otherwise ignored (it should be) or if it is a dangerous drug that has to be kept away from people no matter the cost.

A week from now MJ will become legal here.  We will finally be able to use it without worrying that we will be tossed in jail, our lives torched in order to prevent us from feeling sleepy and snacky.  Naturally the government is rolling this out in a completely idiotic way, using a single government supplier that won't even have any brick and mortar locations in the beginning.  The lack of competition in supply and the lack of freedom of purchasing means that people will continue to buy from illegal sources, funnelling money into organized crime.

Legalization is a good first step, but the Ontario government is still proceeding as if they can prevent MJ usage by simply making production by the private sector illegal.  A cursory examination of any part of human history can teach us that this is foolish in the extreme.

There are a lot of things that the free market is bad at, but providing MJ is one of the things it would actually be good at.  Tight fisted government control just makes things worse.

At least there is some measure of progress, and in a week I can wander down to my local dispensary and fill out an official looking form to buy my weed without worrying about being imprisoned for my troubles.  That much, at least, is looking up.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Sexy education

Homeschooling requires you to teach all kinds of things.  With so many subjects and so many topics, what to do first?

Why, sex ed, of course.  Otherwise I wouldn't be me.

This year I am teaching Pinkie Pie at home.  It is a difficult transition for us, but we are slowly getting geared up.  Since sex ed was the first thing on the agenda I decided I should split it into two parts:  Sex for making babies, and sex for fun.  You have to have both things, I think, and the school system currently swings way too far towards sex ed as being reproductive biology and attempts to scare kids into never having sex.

I talked about all the basic biology stuff in day 1, covering menstruation and puberty and how babies grow from conception to birth.  Pinkie Pie was fascinated and *horrified* at the videos of sperm I showed her on Youtube.  The idea that she might someday have such tiny creatures thrashing and swarming inside her was nothing short of terrifying.

Which honestly is a pretty reasonable response.  I mean, if I wasn't completely used to the idea by now it strikes me as the sort of thing that would give me shudders.  

Sex for fun was actually harder for her though, I think.  She gets the idea of needing to know about biology and reproduction, but she isn't the least bit interested in sex or love or relationships.  It surely made her twitch to see her dear ole dad talking about masturbation and sex as a way to bond and express love and even *ewww* talking about the various ways that people have sex.

Parents are supposed to be sexless, passionless automatons, who somehow received children through a sterile, scientific process!  This whole mess of emotions and bodily fluids, yuck.

It went well, I think.

One thing I read recently on the topic of sex ed really depressed me.  It was talking about how people study sex ed and what sorts of science we have done on the topic.  The takeaway is this:  People want to understand what sex ed is good and bad and how we should approach it, but the only thing we have studied is how effective various sex ed types are at preventing STIs, babies, and sexual frequency.  The entire thing we are doing with science presupposes that our only goal is to keep teenagers from bangin' each other.

That shouldn't be the only goal!  Preventing STI transmission and teenage pregnancy are fine goals, sure, but the real thing we should be aiming for is how to promote healthy relationships and satisfying sex lives.  We should try to make sure kids grow up with the tools they need to have the sex the want, and avoid the sex they don't want.  Big picture, we want them to be happy, not celibate.

But it is hard to measure happiness like that.  It is easy to measure number of sex partners or STI treatments or abortions, so we go and measure that.  Unfortunately people then try to pretend that this stuff we are measuring is a perfect representation of the success of sex ed, when they should instead acknowledge that a big part of what we are trying to do can't be easily measured.

Using what we can measure as a metric for success is a problem all over, but I think it is acute in the case of sex ed.  Unfortunately I don't have much in the way of easy solutions.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

The luckiest man alive

At a wedding this past weekend I had some interesting times trying to explain my relationships to people.  You see, I took my girlfriend to my wife's exhusband's wedding.  Like a lot of my current relationship status it makes perfect sense when you look at how it came about, but the one sentence summary boggles people's minds.

I ended up talking about that with a couple of different people at the wedding and I got the usual sorts of reactions.  Some assumed they had misheard and couldn't believe what was going on.  Some pretended to be okay with it but had no idea what to say.  Others leapt to conclusions that just aren't true.  The last one decided I must be some kind of superhero with magical powers of seduction.

The reactions to my polyamorous relationship web are massively charged with gendered assumptions.  People don't suddenly think "Wow, Sky's wife and girlfriend and other lovers are super lucky!"  They always leap to "Wow, Sky is the luckiest bastard alive!"  I can only assume a lot of them are assuming I have done something nefarious to manage to be in this situation.  What they don't do is assume that the other people I am involved with have much in the way of agency, or that they get anything out of it.

It just always seems to revolve around the expectation that the men involved in open relationships finally get to bang whoever they like, and the women put up with it for some inexplicable reason.  Obviously this stuff comes from common social assumptions about men and women, it isn't a mystery, but every time it smacks me in the face I get grumpy and try to push back against it.  I know lots of women who are in relationships where they want all the sex and their partners do not, and they struggle mightily with their desires to have more partners or more variety.  The baseline cultural assumption that they *don't* want those things also makes it extra hard.

The reaction that an open relationship is a windfall for me but a burden to the women I am involved with at the moment makes me angry.  It takes away agency from them and makes me out to be someone who is just taking advantage.  It puts me at the centre of it all, and my partners on the periphery.

I want my relationships, no matter the structure, to be something that works for everyone and makes all the participants happy.  It is important to me that the way I structure how I live is desired for everyone, not a burden to be borne because of the inevitability of my wandering eye.

I don't want to be seen as that lucky bastard who sold a bunch of women into grudging acceptance of his unending lust.  I want to be seen as a guy who works hard to make his relationships bring happiness to everyone involved, no matter if that means being conventional or not.

Just one more reason to storm the barricades yelling "Down with the patriarchy!" as if I needed more reasons for that.

A red wedding

This weekend I was at Full Throttle's wedding.  It was an odd thing, because he got married ten years ago, but only now decided to actually do the whole ceremony and party bit.  I struggled some with it because it was in a church and I had lots of internal issues with the religious and gender based stuff in a wedding I went to during the summer, and I did not want to run the God gauntlet again.

It is a tricky beast.  I don't want to tell other people how to live, or what sorts of ceremonies they should have to mark their important moments.  I also don't want to sit in a religious service silently seething at the ways it cements and supports entrenched sexist norms.

I ended up just skipping the ceremony and going to the reception.  I could have easily made up any number of lies to get out of going to the ceremony but I felt like I had to pick one thing or the other:  Either Full Throttle is someone I am close to, or he is not.  If he is someone I am close to, I should tell the truth about having problems with the venue and composition of the ceremony.  What possible good is being close to a person if you have to lie to them about things that are important to you? 

On the other hand if he isn't important to me and thus lying becomes more palatable, then why go to the wedding at all?  It makes no sense, to me at least, to go to a wedding if you don't care about the people getting married.

The wedding was Game of Thrones themed.  There were lots of swords for decoration and the music constantly had me imagining tiny cogs and wheels.  Part of that theme was the 'get the couple to kiss' rules, which were that you had to fight and win a duel with a plastic sword, and each victor of a duel had to take the couple's cause in the next duel.

A chance to make an ass of myself in public *and* fight with a sword at the same time?  Sign me up!

Iolo and I decided that we, as the groom's gamer nerd buddies, needed to break the system.  Iolo fought the first duel against the head table, so he ended up becoming the next champion.  I challenged him, and he simply held his blades aside so I could whack him gently and defeat him, forcing the couple to kiss.  This made me the new champion, and while Iolo could simply have challenged me and had me concede we decided that we had already broken the system this way once - no need to do it again.

The next way to break the system was for me to go up and challenge again, while I was still the champion.  I would have to fight myself, and I could just whack myself with the sword, and both win and lose at the same time!  I would both have to retire as champion and be the next champion, so I can only assume this would have spawned a singularity and swallowed up the earth had I done it, but before I put this plan into action I was challenged by somebody else.

Unfortunately this challenge did not go well for me and I lost, getting stabbed savagely in the stomach.  It turns out that plastic swords can do little damage with a slash, but a stab in a vulnerable region is quite another thing entirely.  I was in a lot of pain immediately, and even three days later my stomach is still hurting.  I don't think I have any permanent damage, but it is not comfortable.

This strikes me as quite appropriate.  Much of my relationship with Full Throttle was about playing football in university, and we played full tackle without any protective gear.  I spent many a day limping about, barely able to move after savage hits in our games.  That I would be injured at a Game of Thrones wedding, with Full Throttle as the groom, feels entirely appropriate.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Drip drip drip

My kitchen sink was a mess.  One day I found a bit of moisture in my recycle container and I thought that it must have been a beer that was tossed in there partly full.  That didn't entirely make sense, and something twigged in my mind, but I decided to ignore it.  The next day the bag was soaked and I discovered the whole under sink area was wet.  I ran my fingers along the pipe under the sink and then felt a sickening crunch under my fingers, and I knew it was going to be a right mess.

Pipes aren't supposed to go crunch under the lightest of touches.

For a couple of days we just put a bucket under the sink and the water blasted right into the bucket when we sent it down the drain.  It gave me a great appreciation for just how much water we use, and how much of a pain in the ass it is to get rid of wastewater by hand.  Modern plumbing is amazing, yo.

Eventually my parents came to visit and my dad, being a master of fixing all things, helped me rebuild the underside of my sink.  Normally I would say that I helped him, but he got me to do all the work while he watched and instructed.  My sink won't break again for another twenty years probably, but if it does I will know what to do about it!  It is all pretty plastic instead of copper, which is the style these days, or so my dad says.  I remember doing this sort of thing many a time when I was young, and I guess some of those lessons stuck.

Some certainly didn't, obviously, because I am a city boy now.

It amazed me to see the extent of the damage after I removed the pipe.  It was just destroyed.  I guess it was holding on, right at the very edge of total failure, and finally the water seal gave way and the entire thing fell to pieces.  It makes me appreciate the city infrastructure that is often a full 100 years old and which still manages to mostly work somehow, getting water to my home and taking it away again.

I suppose there is a lot of that in our world.  Everything around us is slowly falling apart, and when we finally notice an issue and look at it we find it is an absolute wreck, everything about it on the edge of total catastrophe.

My nipples are a terrifying thing

Today there were new signs in my building's workout room.  They said all the usual things about being quiet and not damaging stuff, but there were two new clauses tacked on at the end.  One said that everyone must wear proper shoes while using the equipment, and the other said that everyone must be properly clothed in a Tshirt or exercise clothing.  I HATE the word proper.  It can die in a fire.

My nipples are at fault.

I have been working out barefoot for almost three years now, so that isn't the thing that has prompted this new grasp at power by a bored bureaucrat.  The difference is that over the past few months I have occasionally gone shirtless while lifting in the weight room.  Normally I am alone, and sometimes I get so sticky and hot during my routine I shuck my shirt.  A few people have walked in, and while none of them have said anything, obviously somebody was extremely frightened and offended at my nipples and they complained to the authorities.

Nipples are terrifying as fuck, y'all.

Before anyone starts excusing this nonsense let us be clear:  My shirt, by the end of my routine, is soaked.  My bodily goo is getting all over everything no matter whether or not I have a shirt on.  Women often wear sports bras as their only top, and nobody is complaining on that account.  This is purely a nipple issue.

I know what will happen if I protest this.  I have been down this road before.  They will make noises about 'safety' and cluck disapprovingly about disease.  This is the standard nonsense people spew when anyone does something outside social norms, because it masquerades as concern, when in fact it is purely classist bullshit.  We don't want *those* sorts of people in our building, they think, and those undesirable types must be full of disease and filth.

It is the same whether or not I am trying to go without shoes, be polyamorous, or not wear a shirt.  People assume that because it is weird that anyone doing it must be filthy and dangerous, and they don't even bother with a cursory examination of their reasons.

But you can't fight city hall.  They can enforce any bullshit ruleset they want, and nothing I say is going to convince the condo board that my right to dress how I like is as important as other people's right to tell me how to dress.

One good thing though is that when you are replete with rage, full to the brim with fury, and consumed with a desire for righteous vengeance, doing your workout routine is easy as hell.  I tore through those reps like they were NOTHING.

Thursday, September 13, 2018


Ontario is in the middle of a major controversy.  Doug Ford, newly elected premiere of Ontario, decided to push through some new legislation that greatly interferes with an ongoing election in the capital city of Toronto.  Ford decided to shrink the size of Toronto city council by roughly half and in the process redraw all the ward boundaries. 

The key here is the middle of the election bit.  We could have a perfectly reasonable discussion about how many councillors Toronto should have, and maybe those boundaries around the wards should change.  But Ford isn't leaping in to correct some massive imbalance - Toronto has about as many councillors per person as most other major cities, and the current numbers and maps were drawn with extensive consultation over many years.  This is the sort of process that should take a long time.

However, Ford isn't doing this because he wants to correct a problem.  Previously he was on city council and the other councillors stopped Ford and his crack smokin' mayor of a brother from doing all kinds of dumb stuff.  Ford is just trying to leverage his new power to punish people who annoyed him in the past.  It is honestly kind of breathtaking that he is so obvious about heinous abuses of power for personal reasons.

The recent spate of news is that a judge put a stop to this order saying it violated our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  I can't say legally how solid this is, but mucking with the election rules partway through an election certainly is terrible. 

Ford responded to this by declaring that he is using a controversial thing called the notwithstanding clause.  This clause allows the government to flat out ignore the Charter of Rights and Freedoms any time it wants.  It is a clause that has not been used because it is considered extreme and rude, pretty much, but it theory it means the government could make a law like 'No people of colour allowed' and squelch any objection by the courts.

This is a fucking disaster.  The notwithstanding clause shouldn't exist, and normalizing its usage is a terrible step to take.  Ford didn't even try to claim that this is a special case and he wouldn't use it often - he said that he would not be shy about using it again.  We are looking at a premiere who expects to be doing things against the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and is happy to just ignore it.  If anything, he seems jubilant about the opportunity to do whatever the hell he wants no matter how wrong it is.

Lots of people are aghast that the tacit agreement not to use the notwithstanding nuclear option has been broken.  Everyone knew it *could* be used, but mostly they thought it wouldn't be.  How could the norms of civilized society be broken this way?

I am of two minds.  First off, all of government is a tacit agreement.  When dictators take control they are in control because people don't push back enough to stop them.  No law will suffice if people don't stand up for it.  This isn't some kind of outrageous departure because the only thing stopping the government from doing any horrible thing is protest against it by the masses, and the use of the notwithstanding clause is the same situation.  The government will do it unless we yell, a lot.

On the other hand this is a real problem.  Not just for the buffoon in charge of Ontario right now, but also for all of Canada.  Breaking that tacit agreement to not use this clause will give other premieres the idea that they can violate people's rights if they feel like it and they have a get out of jail free card.  This seems like it might encourage other forms of terrible behaviour if the pushback isn't strong enough.

It all strikes me as absurd.  Any politician actually trying to govern reasonably would just delay the new legislation until after the current election and change things calmly.  That might not be a great idea, but it wouldn't be a catastrophe.  But Ford is a destructive, foolish, selfish asshole.  He only cares about sticking it to people who he doesn't like, and he is willing to do whatever damage is required to get his petty revenge fantasies fulfilled.  And this is the guy in charge of my province for the next four years.

Anyone who is in a Conservative riding in Ontario needs to get busy and call their representative.  This is a major departure from normal standards of behaviour and there is a chance that if we riot enough we will convince some of them to back off on supporting this legislation.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

80% more strongness

For the past six months or so I have been doing the same workout regimen.  In March I realized that I had been adding too much to my routine and it was really starting to cause damage so I stopped increasing weights and reps and just did the same thing over and over.  I acclimatized, and eventually it became easy, but I never got back into the pattern of constantly pushing myself to do more.  After coming back from WBC this year it hurt to get back into my routine because 10 days off caused me to lose some strength.

I have realized that the hurt and soreness I was feeling back in August as I built myself back up is something I miss.  Probably not the pain itself, but the sense of improvement, of becoming more through suffering and difficulty, has a lot of appeal. 

I decided that I need a new goal, and that goal is to increase my lifts by 80% by the end of the year.  I am not trying to increase my strength 80% in that timeframe (if that were even possible, which I doubt, it would require massive amounts of steriods); rather, I want to increase the total number of reps per day by 80%.  That should naturally lead to strength increases, but I don't know how much.

Even then 80% sounds like a ton considering I already put in 40 minutes a day of lifting.  However, the first thing I am doing is going up from doing a three day routine where I do 1 hour of lifting for 2 days then rest the third day, to just lifting every single day for an hour.  That is a flat 50% increase, so I will only need to raise my actual reps by 20% over current values in order to achieve an overall 80% increase.  Hopefully by next summer I can get up to a full 100% increase over the previous year.

Over the past couple weeks I have put this No Rest Ever theory to the test and it has actually been a lot easier than I ever expected.  I even find that the individual sessions are easier than before for some reason.  It sure eats up a lot of my time but my body seems perfectly capable of sustaining this level of output.  I am feeling that background pain in my muscles though, which tells me I am getting closer to my limits.

It seems weird but I think that low level pain is a big motivator.  If my routine is easy it hardly seems worth doing; somehow knowing that I am really going to the maximum makes putting in the time feel worthwhile.  It isn't how strong I am - because honestly, my life is barely any different - but rather the process of improvement and the struggle therein that is the thing I want.

Time to get HUGE!

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Like a shoe

This past summer I had my first experience of having sex with a male.  I had big plans for a blog post after the experiment, figuring I could talk about how much or how little the label bisexual applied to me now.  How bi am I? seemed like an appropriate title.

The answer to the question is:  Basically not at all.

Afterwards I described the experience as being similar to having had sex with a shoe.  I don't personally eroticize shoes at all, they are just an object, and this was similar.  It wasn't horrifying or bad, and no internalized homophobia manifested.  It just didn't do it for me.

This should not be read as though anything said male partners did was wrong.  Honestly the experience for me had little to do with what they did, because the physical sensations were perfectly good and expected.  I don't think of them as objects in other ways, but as far as sex with me goes, the magic thing that normally happens just wasn't there, in the same way it wouldn't be there with any other thing I don't eroticize, like say my own hand.  Apparently I have a strict hierarchy of experiences:  On top is sex with females, then masturbation, then sex with males.  Masturbation is superior to sex with males because I can quit when I want and I don't need to be concerned with anyone else's needs, which is convenient, though it does sound ruthless and selfish.

It turns out that all my years of double takes at exposed cleavage and open mouthed awe at wide, curvy hips really did indicate that female bodies are the thing that launch my boat.  I wasn't really doubting that, but I figured there might be a little bit more flexibility in my orientation if I gave it a try, and now having tried it I am forced to conclude that I am really quite straight.  Heteroflexible is a reasonable term since it would be fine if I had sex with a male, but I don't see much reason to pursue that.

All of which is too bad because I really liked the idea of being bisexual.  I know it is hard for lots of people and there is plenty of bigotry out there, but given who I am and how my life is I expect it would be an upgrade for me.  Turns out, that ain't happening.

I am glad to have given this a try though.  Learning is fun!

One odd consequence of this is that I cannot legally donate blood in Canada now.  Men who have had sex with men are banned from doing that.  That rule goes away after one year, presuming I stop having sex with men completely.  It is perfectly safe though if I have lots of sex with lots of women... or so goes the theory.  I haven't ever donated blood anyway, (which I should have done, really) but this ruleset is still troubling to me.

Five figures of steps

People really want to get their 10,000 steps in.  My father in law has a fitbit and aims to get his 10k a day, Wendy has her phone tracking her steps, and lots of other people I know do the same.  Of course there is nothing magical at all about 10,000 steps.  People have all kinds of different needs and capabilities and there is no reason at all to assume that 10,000 is somehow the 'correct' amount of exercise.  10,000 is just a thing because it is a big round number and we humans really like those.

I read an article talking about this, and it managed to really miss the point.  The article pointed out correctly that there isn't any hard medical science suggesting that 10,000 is the optimal number of steps for health.  But was anyone really thinking that?  With all the confounding factors going into it it seems blatantly clear to me that 10,000 is just a convenient round number that happens to be attainable for a normal person with an interest in walking.  1,000 is clearly trivial for most people, and 100,000 is near impossible, so 10,000 it is.

Here is the trick.  Sure, there isn't any medical evidence that 10,000 is correct.  But if you stop there you are missing something big.  There is plenty of evidence to suggest that walking is good for you, that people stick to walking regimens if they have clear goals and can treat it like a game, and that one major barrier to sticking to walking regimens is consistency.  10,000 isn't some magical thing that comes from physiology, it is a magical thing that comes from psychology.

We aren't doing 10,000 steps for medical reasons, we are doing it because fitbits and step trackers and big round numbers help us keep to a healthy routine.  We are using brain hacks to get ourselves to do things we know we should do.

That is a good thing!

And by we, I don't mean me, because I don't walk that much, and I don't track my steps.  If I need more exercise I go to the gym and lift more and harder, because I like tracking those numbers a lot more.  Doing 28 pushup sets or 30 pushup sets isn't something medicine has an opinion on, but I use the numbers to motivate me to healthy behaviour.

Our society so often seems to get caught up in which exercise is perfect, and what exactly we can do to sculpt our bodies just the way we want.  We shouldn't be bothering.  The trick is to find something to get yourself moving that you will enjoy and stick to.  The details of the exercise are unimportant, all you need to do is do something, and keep doing it.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Women in their place, unfortunately

This weekend I went to a wedding.  It was a perfectly normal wedding in most ways, and most people wouldn't think anything of it.  I couldn't help but be frustrated by so much of it though because of the unrelenting sexism.

Giving the bride away is a tradition that needs to die in a fire.  I just don't know how people today can sit there and watch a woman handed off from one man to another like a hunk of meat and not twitch at the injustice of it all.  If you want to be handed off by your parents, fine, there are ways to do that.  I have seen weddings where both people being married were walked in on the arms of both of their parents and this is fine!  Not my style, but it does not bother me at all.

But the thing where much ceremony is made of which man is going to hand over the bride to the groom?  YUCK.

Lots of little things got to me too.  I don't like the pageantry and expense of weddings in general, but that is an aesthetic thing rather than a real moral objection.  But the bridesmaids and groomsmen all being gender coded, and the explicit gender rules for everyone involved in the party really bother me.  I also struggle with the expectation that the women in the wedding party must spend extensive time doing hair and makeup while the men put in a far lesser amount of effort.  The women have to pay for new dresses to match the colour of the wedding, while the men just wear their normal suit.  The men are clearly just fine on their own, but women have to show themselves off to get full value.

Marriage is fine and all, once you strip away all the sexist garbage.  I just can't be comfortable with the way marriage happens to most people though, particularly the way it so ruthlessly polices gender roles and comformity to gender norms.

And this is all to ignore all the objections I have to all the religious stuff associated with weddings, which is another whole rant entirely.

Someday I am going to finally swear off all of this.  I feel stuck when I get invited to weddings that I know are going to be a barrage of religion and sexist crap.  I don't want to alienate friends, but sitting through more of these ceremonies that fly in the face of deeply held values of mine is becoming more and more unpalatable as the years go by.

The future of the red pill

Orson Scott Card is not a good person.  I don't like him, not one little bit.  However, he did write one of my favourite books, Ender's Game.  I find it hard to reconcile these facts; generally I decide to just make sure that I never do anything that gives Card money but still read the books I love.

This weekend I started reading Ender in Exile, a book following Ender after the events of Ender's Game.  I figured I would enjoy the book and it would be a guilty pleasure.  Instead the book pissed me off and I don't even plan on finishing it.

Ender In Exile in many ways a predictable followup to Ender's Game, but it goes off the rails with Card pushing his crappy sexist bullshit.  Much like many other highly successful authors before him, Card pushes out sequels to make cash but inserts bigoted views because he is big enough that he can get away with it.

This time it is all about relationships.  Card makes it clear that the only way that human society can function is monogamy, and that it has to be enforced monogamy.  This is silly and flies in the face of all of the evidence, but initially I was merely irritated.  I am all about non monogamy, but fine, the characters in the book are ignorant, I can cope.  The thing that really got me was a scene where on a planet where monogamy has been arranged and is seriously policed.  In the scene, a top male scientist had a subordinate female scientist desperately try to convince him to have sex with her to give her smart babies.  She desperately wanted to lie to her husband explicitly because she wanted better genes for her children.

I am disappointed that Card has added 'red pill' sexist bullshit to his repertoire of evil.  He wants to portray women as requiring enforced monogamy, because otherwise they will just cuckold their husbands for higher status / better genetics / prettier men.  Card's sexism was evident in previous books but this particular one really slapped me in the face with it, and because it also pushed my buttons I couldn't just ignore it.

I just don't know how to cope with straight men who so obviously hate women.  It is such a mess to have that combination of desire and bitterness, attraction and repulsion.  It is wretched and awful, and I am glad I have no part of it.

Don't read Ender in Exile.  Further, if you must read anything Card wrote, try not to give him money for it.  That message is an important one to send.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Keeping score

Recently I found a fantastic Youtube channel called ContraPoints.  It is, as the star says, a scholarly study of online bigotry.  It is also funny as hell, and mixes educational material about racism, sexism, and all the other isms along with dark and dirty humour.  It is definitely not safe for work, and it is not safe for work in ways that I quite enjoy.  The video I watched today is this one about pickup artists who call style themselves 'alpha males'.

The thing I found most interesting in the video was a description of the end goal of pickup artist seduction techniques.  I always found pickup artists loathsome but this gave me some insight into how you get from where I am to where they are.  I like sex, I am a straight man, I am fine with casual sex, and in the periods in my life where I wasn't having sex I was unhappy about that fact.  This might suggest that I would be the sort of person who might employ their tactics.

But no, never.  The reason is that pickup artists aren't actually in it for the sex.  They are in it to try to soothe their intense feelings of inadequacy and self hatred by having as big a score as possible.  If they were just looking for good sex they would figure out how to be in a relationship and find some woman with a massive sex drive and call it a day.  But that doesn't inflate the number of people you have slept with much at all, and that number is the way in which they keep score.

For me sex is the point, score isn't.  The interplay of mutual desire, the ratcheting up of excitement, these are the things I want.  Having sex with new people is fun in general but the really important thing is that the sex be *good*.

Whereas for pickup artists no time is wasted on how to enjoy sex, or how to bring your partner enjoyment.  Once you get your penis inside a vagina your score has ticked up, so the remainder of the encounter is not particularly relevant.

Now I get it.  It wasn't just that pickup artists were gross before, it was that they made no sense at all.  They were clearly evil, but it was an evil without a point, which confused me.  Now that I realize that their goals were entirely different from mine it all falls into place.  Pickup artists aren't pleasure seeking hedonists like me, because wasting time in bars trying to get reluctant people to have shitty sex with you isn't pleasureable.  They just want to win the game, and they are willing to win it in a way that is sad for all people involved.  The game of keeping score in life by the number of one night stands you have had is sad and destructive and I want no part of it.  I am going to keep score by trying to be the person who generates the most fun for me and the people around me instead.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Everything sucks for everyone!

Patriarchy sucks.  There is an awful lot of information there about how it sucks for women, and few people are willing to debate that at this point.  (Obviously there are some, and they are terrible people.)

But patriarchy sucks for men too.  I read a great article today interviewing a number of trans men who had lived experience with being treated as a man and as a woman and they had lots to say about the negatives of being treated as a man.  They talked about people refusing to speak to them, about their emotions being dismissed, and about the lack of support and empathy they got from others.

Of course they acknowledged that being treated as a man came with the benefits of being listened to and being promoted, among others, but it was clear that both sides had their penalties and benefits.

Overall I would take the 'treated as a man' package, as would most people I expect.  It generally is better, which is kind of the point of feminism.  But we would be remiss if we ignored the bad stuff that happens to men as a result of toxic masculinity.  Repression of emotions, lack of non erotic physical touch, and vulnerability being seen as a failure make men feel shitty, and then it cascades onto the people they interact with.

I think this is a critical part of feminism that a lot of people ignore.  Feminism isn't just about helping women - it helps make a better world for everyone, whether they be man, woman, nonbinary, or literally any gender at all.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Halfway there

I turned 40 yesterday, and a lot of people think of turning 40 as halfway to dead.  It isn't quite true, even though on average people do die a little after 80.  It turns out though that it works for me, and using this life expectancy calculator I either rate to live to 79.7 or 82.5 depending on which alcohol consumption box I tick.  Apparently I rate to live 2.8 years longer if I drink alcohol than if I don't... which seems odd, so perhaps I shouldn't trust it.  At any rate I might as well place complete faith in a random calculator I found on the internet and assume I am halfway dead.

That seems okay.

I am not sure if I am having a midlife crisis or not.  Most men who do that start buying motorcycles or convertibles and pretend to live dangerously.  I haven't done that.  I did recently start getting big tattooes and I have spent the last couple years working out to try to get ripped though, so maybe that counts.  I think if I actually stick to the workout routines it isn't an official midlife crisis though - a midlife crises is more about flailing about for validation rather than years of concentrated effort.  I definitely did the cavorting with younger women thing, no doubt about that, but I intend to keep that up right until I die at the ripe old age of exactly 79.7 years.  Similar to the weight lifting thing, it doesn't count as a crisis if it is a permanent lifestyle choice.

I feel good.  40 doesn't feel any different than 39.99 did.  I am changing slowly and predictably, and each of the past few years has seen similar drift.  I am stronger, in better shape, and better looking than ever.  (That assumes you think that adding lots of muscles outweighs my receding hairline and grey, and I do think that.)  I am stupider than before, and that trend is continuing.  I am worse at abstract reasoning and my calculations are slower than they were.  However, I am certainly wiser than I ever have been before and I make better decisions.  Overall my brain is better than ever, though it is mostly better at general life stuff and worse at high performance activities.  A reasonable trade, I think.  I heal slower, sleep worse, and ache more these days, but my body is still a distinctly above average performer so I can't complain.

I remain convinced that my 40s will be great.  Pinkie Pie has struggles and helping her through those is a challenge, but I still prefer a teenager to a baby.  Raising a kid is getting easier, and I am getting much of my freedom back after years of baby prison.  Being wiser is helping with making my middle aged life better, because although I am not as good at winning games as I used to be I am better at finding joy no matter whether I win or lose.

The world has its challenges too, but I remain stubbornly optimistic.  We humans have always had great challenges and I think our track record shows that we will continue to push forward and find ways to make it work despite all of our obvious flaws and failings.  Civilization is clearly imperfect, but we keep on getting better, and I look forward to seeing all the great things we will do.

I also look forward to sitting on a porch in a rocking chair shaking my fist at teenagers and yelling at them to get off my lawn.  I won't wait for them to actually be on the lawn either, I am going to have my fun no matter what.  Hell, I don't even need a lawn for this to work.

Turning 40 is a reminder that my time is limited.  But since it is limited, I am not going to waste it bemoaning how little time I have left.  I don't have time for that!

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Not a word of a lie

I often end up thinking about when people have an obligation to disclose information to others about relationships.  This is a thing that comes up with non monogamous dating from time to time - when you first start seeing someone, when do you have a moral obligation to tell them you are already involved with other people?

I have gotten myself into some real arguments about this.  The crux of the matter seems to be what people are entitled to assume.  Most people assume that anyone they date is monogamous, and statistically speaking that is reasonable.  Statistically speaking you should also assume they will cheat on you, but people tend to gloss over this and look at idealized behaviour. 

However, it isn't reasonable to put the entire burden of coming out on marginalized people.  Saying that all the monogamous people are allowed to assume everyone is like them and that everyone else must immediately disclose puts extra problems in the hands of people who already face discrimination, and that isn't fair or good.  It also helps entrench cultural norms further and I think that is a definite negative.  Of course people need to be honest with their answers, and be open, but I think everyone will be far better off if we establish a baseline that you have to ask questions yourself if the answers are important, rather than just assuming things are the way you want them to be.

There are lots of questions like this.  For example, in Savage Love this week there was a dude asking about his obligations in a complex situation.  He is in a dom/sub arrangement where his girlfriend is allowed to have sex with other people, but only when he commands her to go and do so.  She comes back and tells him about the encounters afterwards, and they both enjoy this dynamic.  Do the two of them have an obligation to tell people that this is what is going on when she goes out and has a hookup?

I don't think they have a moral obligation to disclose.  They tell people she is involved with others, but not the details of their arrangement, and that seems like a fine compromise.  I imagine there are lots of people out there who would be horrified that someone they are dating has to ask permission to have sex with them, but I don't think they are entitled to that information before they say yes.  They are certainly entitled to the truth if they ask 'so, what is the deal with you and your boyfriend?' but without an ask that information is sufficiently out of their circle that they shouldn't expect it to be volunteered.

Kink is kind of like being in an open relationship in a lot of ways.  Telling random people about it is a real risk, and so it isn't appropriate to expect everyone in such a situation to be obligated to talk about it constantly just so it can be more comfortable for the 'normal' types.

Of course this kind of stuff is mostly academic when it comes to me.  I wouldn't get involved with someone who wasn't okay with all my stuff, and I already yell about it on the internet, so if someone is getting down and dirty with me they already know the deal.  I just don't like to put people who aren't in the secure situation I am on the spot and make them cope with the problems that cultural norms create for those of us who don't fit into them.

My recent experiences and thoughts about Relationship Anarchy feel like they support this position too.  RA is all about pushing back on assumptions about how relationships work, and you can't do that while you set up different rulesets for people who follow the norms and people who don't.  Honestly is required, and people should tell other information they are likely to want, but I won't impose a rule on the marginalized few that the mass of humanity completely ignores.

Monday, August 6, 2018

A soft beard

People sometimes complain about my beard.  Mostly people who I kiss, who are occasionally attacked savagely by the ends of the hairs sprouting from my face.  Until recently I thought this a problem without a solution.  When I shave it off I get told I look freaky and ten years old.  When I leave it on, it attacks.  What to do with a beard?

But not so long ago I came across the idea of beard oil.  Many people who pay more attention to personal grooming than I do surely knew of this for their entire lives, but it only came across my desk recently.  I hesitated though, unsure if I was willing to actually put that much time into my routine.  Plus the cost!  Surely beard oil is expensive, and you know how I feel about that.

But at WBC this year EpicBeard expounded on the joys of beard oil.  He waxed eloquent about the benefits.  And he is a convincing sort of person, so I gave it a go.

The price nearly killed me.  75 ml for 10 dollars?  What is this stuff made of, uranium?!?  And this is the cheapest stuff in the store!

I kind of hope not.  Uranium is pretty dangerous to put on your face, or so I have heard.

So I put the outrageously expensive stuff on my face; the test is underway.

The results so far indicate that beard oil is smelly.  Not to me - my nose hardly works at all.  Other people though, the kinds of people who were hoping that my beard would be less stabby, report that beard oil is unpleasant.  This does not bode well for the beard oil industry getting any more of my money.

Whether it will make my beard any softer is yet to be determined.  It does seem to reduce the itch factor of my beard though, so at least that portion of it works.  To find out about the stabbiness though I will need to conduct many tests and kiss lots of people.  You need lots of data, you see, in order to science properly, and science is extremely important.  As such, a great deal of kissing must commence.

Ending it all, done right

Usually when I click on obvious clickbait on the internet I feel bad about my choices.  It never brings fulfillment, only endless marching hordes of exclamation points, hoping to divert my attention from something that actually matters.

But sometimes I find a gem.

I just wandered across the alternate ending to Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and it fixed so many things.  One of the things about Scott Pilgrim was that while most of the movie was an absolute joy to watch I found Scott's obsession with Ramona unpalatable at times.  At points their dynamic was good, but there was simply too much of entitled dude chasing a woman he has imbued with all his dreams and fantasies without much thinking about who she really is.

I wanted the film to end with Scott not being involved with Ramona.  I wanted him to realize that his desperate pursuit of an unknown was not true love, but simply infatuation.  I wanted him to grow, dammit.

And in this alternate ending, Ramona just walks away, and Scott ends up happily gaming with Knives, finally seeming to appreciate what she brings to him.

And Ramona should walk away.  Sure, there was a crazy thing between her and Scott, but this is the right ending to the story.  I like it both because I feel like this is the right story to tell, but also because I want to put the right lesson out into the world.  "Chase the woman you become infatuated with until she is yours." is not the thing I want the world to see.  I would have been happy with Scott alone at the end, Ramona having left because they didn't actually have anything, and Knives having left because Scott was an asshole to her.  That would have been good too.

But Ramona leaving and Scott and Knives finding a good place for the two of them to be - that is an ending I am so much happier with.

(Here is where I insert my usual snark, noting that polyamory as an option blows up the scripts of at least half of the movies ever.  Why not date both of them?  At least consider it!)

If only The Breakfast Club could put out a new ending to replace the final 5% of the movie... then I could die in peace.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Gradually increasing disdain

Wendy forwarded me this link today to an article written by a Relationship Anarchist.  The author seems to be an anarchist in many ways, not just in relationships.  While usually I find anarchistic arguments interesting they almost always fail in the details; before destroying the economic system that keeps us all fed I would like to know how exactly the new system will distribute food!  However, RA is a completely different thing because implementing it, while it would change things a great deal, does not actually threaten our lives, merely big chunks of the current social order.

The article got me thinking on RA again, and its hard stance that monogamy is wrong and bad resonated with me.  I find myself with a great deal of ambivalence about this topic, because I can see compelling arguments for both sides.

First, a key definition:  Monogamy here refers to people forcing things on others.  If you want one partner, many or none, sexual or not, romantic or not, that is all good.  The thing that troubles me is people coercing others into specific numbers, not what they freely choose to do themselves.

If a friend told me that I could have no other friends but them I would laugh at them and never talk to them again.  If a lover told me that I was not allowed to have a relationship with my family anymore I would give them the heave ho.  If my uncle told me that I was not allowed to have sex with anyone I would tell him to fuck right off.  All of these people would be roundly condemned as being somewhere between insecure jerks and evil abusers.  In fact, those demands are so ridiculous that most people receiving such a demand would assume it was a joke at first.

And yet if a lover told me that I was not allowed to have sex with another person, or love another person, this is normal and expected.

That is messed right up.  A lover trying to isolate someone from their friends or family is a classic sign of abuse and one that people react immediately to.  You shouldn't cut people off from their support networks!  But demand that you be their sole partner for sex and romantic love and suddenly it is all good.  The more times I run this script in my head the more it settles into the conclusion that monogamy is an evil institution that needs to go.

But there are arguments the other way.  If people choose monogamy freely, who am I to criticize their choice?  So long as everyone is on board, informed, and able to leave, shouldn't I back off and let everyone do their own thing?  That is a strong argument for the stance I have taken about relationships so far, which is that I am doing the RA / polyamory thing and that other people are welcome to do what they please.

However, I ask myself if I would say the same thing if a friend of mine was getting into a serious relationship and told me "Yeah, so, my partner says I can't have friends anymore, so I can't see you again."  Would I happily answer "Oh yes, you are making an informed choice and this is fine."?  Fuck no.  I would tell them that this is a disaster, that their partner is a controlling asshole, and they need to get out.  I can't stop them from making the choice, but I will be damned if I am going to sit back and tell them it is a good thing to do.  So if I back off and say that monogamy is all fine and well, how is it that I justify this position when I so clearly see the problems with it?  If I just sign off on monogamy as a totally fine choice I end up making a special case for it and defining it as fine without any justification aside from "Well, that is just the way things are, and rocking the boat is likely to be messy."  and I DO NOT like that justification.

It is all complicated because I live in a system that glorifies and supports monogamy.  Most of the people I know are monogamous, and the prospect of telling them all that their relationships are borderline abusive by definition is ... daunting, to say the least.  I don't relish the idea of getting into that particular fight, and the fights would be nearly endless since I know so many people who are monogamous.  It would be especially difficult with people I care deeply about, people who do work hard to make the world a better place.  Is telling them that they are wrong, that they are being bad in placing rules limiting their partner's affection, that they must change, going to smash my relationships with them?  How much would it cost me to take the public stance that most of the people I know are doing it all wrong?

In addition to the personal cost I have to consider the activism cost.  Telling people "I want to do my relationships this way." is far easier, and far more likely to have them accept it.  Telling them that they are wrong for doing what they do will encounter much more pushback and possibly set back acceptance of my way of living.  This sort of dilemma is present in nearly all activism, and figuring out how extreme a position to take is not a simple thing.

On the flip side, actively deciding to not talk about a serious problem I see because it would be too inconvenient to deal with the pushback feels like cowardice.  What kind of world do I want?  One where people like me, loaded with privilege, refuse to be honest and push for change because they are worried that it might be too much work?  Or do I want a world where I pursue my convictions and upset some apple carts in an attempt to build a better society?

The longer I think about it the more I think that telling your partner that you are to be their sole outlet for all sexual and romantic feelings and actions is wrong.  Not wrong like murder is wrong, obviously, because they can walk away if they want to.  But still wrong, in the same way that criticizing someone about something they are sensitive about in front of people they want to impress is wrong.  Not the thing you should do, and certainly a thing you should look askance at if you see anyone else doing it, to find out if there are other signs of bad behaviour.

I know how I feel.  I know what I want.  Figuring out how to act, given that knowledge, is a much thornier problem.