Sunday, June 28, 2020

A failed attempt at argument

We need to cut way back on the use of force by state agents in our society.  We do need armed people at some point for the extreme cases, but it should be restricted to extreme cases.  I saw a thing online attempting to argue back against this, but it only ended up proving my point.

Obviously this is meant to suggest that you need a cop with a gun to handle this.  A naked guy with his fists raised is such a dangerous thing, after all.

But this is *exactly* what we want social workers to be doing.  We don't need a person with a gun ready to murder this naked dude.  We need someone to say "Hey, what is up?  You seem pretty agitated.  Want to tell me why you are on this roof?" without the implied threat of death or imprisonment if the answer isn't what the emergency worker wants.

Nurses and doctors and social workers and lots of other people have to deal with difficult, delusional, drunk, or otherwise problematic people all the time.  They do it without weapons, because the presence of weapons escalates otherwise safe interactions into violence.

A social worker who can talk naked dude down, figure out what his problem is, and try to help him solve it is exactly how we should respond to naked people on a roof.  (That is, assuming we think that naked people on a roof are a problem in the first place, which they are emphatically not, unless they are doing something else that is an issue.)  We definitely don't need a cop with a gun.

If that naked guy grabs an iron pipe and starts threatening to murder nearby people, *then* we need a cop with a gun.  Let's reduce the number of armed state agents by 90%, hire a ton of social workers and EMTs to replace them, and see how much less violence we can have.  I am confident it will be a lot, and we will make life much easier for the people the cops so consistently make problems for - people of colour, queer people, trans people, and others that are already oppressed.  The police amplify the effect of existing prejudices, so we need to reduce their numbers to the absolute minimum we can get away with, given the occasional necessity for violence by the state.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Black lives matter

What with all the conflict in the world surrounding BLM I figured I should link to a black person writing about his struggles with police.  Neil DeGrasse Tyson wrote a piece on this topic, and one of the key things it nails is how racist policing can't be explained away by 'but the police need to question suspicious people' and similar attempts to ignore the problem.  Tyson's story includes an example of him being questioned for carrying books into a building on campus.  This isn't a thing you would imagine any police officer randomly getting involved with, except that Tyson is black, and the police felt sure that black people don't belong near a physics department.  That is for white people!

Here it is.

One thing I have found interesting in all this is looking at the way people talk about their proposed solutions.  'Defund the police' has become a refrain from the protesters, and I am totally behind that.

Sometimes I have seen people saying "Well, obviously we want to redirect most police funding to social workers, health workers, etc. and shrink the police force, but we don't want to *eliminate* police." but others truly want to get rid of police entirely.  No armed law enforcement at all.

You see similar arguments with regards to prisons.  Prison abolition strictly means no prisons, and some people advocate for exactly that, while others want significant reductions in prison populations.

I am certainly in the 'significant reductions' camp.  There are deeply evil people in the world that cannot be dealt with via fines, classes, apologies, or other similar techniques.  The Jeffrey Dahmers and Robert Picktons of the world can't just be left alone.  We need prisons for such people.

We also need armed law enforcement.  When somebody has a gun and is ready to shoot other people, we need people who are trained to fight them.

But we need so few of those people, and such a small amount of prison space.  The desperately evil and incorrigibly violent are rare.

Traffic control does not need to be overseen by armed law enforcement.  Responding to people who are drunk or high or otherwise causing a fuss does not require guns and clubs, it requires someone trained in social work.  There are so many police functions that simply should be overseen by somebody else, probably somebody with actual training that applies to the situation at hand.

We could reduce prisons populations and police personnel by 90% and it would make me happy.  We do need those both of those things for the extreme cases, but there are way too many cops and they are way too involved in everyone's everyday life.

Changing how the police operate is certainly a good goal.  There are so many things we could do to try to reduce the damage police do in each interaction.  However, the simple fact is that we can do a tremendous amount of good by drastically slashing the number of interactions the police are involved in, and we do that by stripping away the vast majority of their budget and putting it towards programs that bring far greater benefits and far fewer problems.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Covid and privilege

One thing that the covid crisis has shone a light on is privilege of many sorts.  The death toll goes across all demographics, but the trend is clear - those with less privilege are dying far more often.  Poor people, people of colour, homeless people, these are the ones dying far more often than white rich folks.  As I understand it this is one of the few situations where men don't have extra benefits - they are dying more of covid than women are.

When we talk about the crisis we should think carefully about what privilege we have that impacts it.  I see many people talking about how others ought to behave, and those statements are usually coloured by the speaker's position in life.  Those living with partners strongly object to people seeing anybody outside their home and can't imagine why anyone would.  Certainly there are risks to doing so, but if you are partnered and have somebody around to meet your needs for sex, cuddling, hugging, and whatever else you should be cautious to judge those who don't.

It is easy to talk about never leaving your house when you have somebody at home with you, but telling someone that they should simply never have human contact for months or even a year is a harsh thing when they live alone.  We know that telling teenagers that abstinence is the only way is a failure of strategy, and the same applies here.

That doesn't mean we should all be going to orgies, obviously.  It does mean that we have to accept that human contact is necessary for manypeople, and if you find that easy to get, you should hesitate to judge those who don't.

The same sort of thing applies with wealth.  If you have children and you live in a house with a yard this pandemic is drastically easier than if you are trying to cope with them in a 2 bedroom apartment.  Telling someone that they have to sit in the same physical space as their kids for months or a year is a completely different thing when you can retreat to a study, send them to the yard, or go exercise in the garage.  When you literally can't get more than 4 meters from them, the situation is not the same.

We don't tax people by charging everybody 20k in taxes and just accepting that this crushes the poor and barely tickles the rich.  We charge a percentage, asking those who have more to contribute more.  Something of the same philosophy needs to be considered with the crisis.  Nobody has a pass to going to parties with random people, but people in challenging circumstances should have more flexibility in how they cope than those who have it easier.

There are all kinds of ways we should apply this.  If you are a knowledge worker with highly desirable skills, you need to accept that someone with precarious employment is going to need to return to work sooner.  Surely there are many other kinds of examples, but the general key is to keep in mind that people's circumstances can be wildly different from your own, and that just because you don't find a rule a problem doesn't mean that it is workable for everyone.

I support strong precautions against covid, and I think we should definitely deal with it by implementing universal basic income.  I don't think we should reopen the economy quickly.  I do think though that we should all be careful how we judge others behaviour when they clearly have far less privilege than we do.  Nobody needs parties or conventions, but we do need security and contact, for starters, and we all should put a lot of effort into removing risk, while accepting that someone else may not have the resources to give as much as we do.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

How to covid

There are degrees of doing social distancing.  Some people have to go to work and wear face shields.  Some people stay home all day and only leave to get groceries.

And some people work in home offices at their dining table surrounded by cubicle walls made of toilet paper.

This wasn't even done for comedy's sake.  Wendy needed walls to separate out the rest of the place from her work zone, and we didn't have anything else that would make such an appropriate makeshift wall.  The wall needed to be opaque, light, easy to set up and move, and unlikely to fall over.  There is literally nothing else in our place that would do.

Pinkie Pie even made a new Do Not Disturb sign for the wall, but unfortunately our printer is dying so we couldn't print it out effectively.  However, here it is, an example of Pinkie Pie's new proficiency with her graphic design program.

This size of condo seemed ideal back when it was just two people living here.  All the space we would ever need!  But nowadays I am cursing myself for not having invested more in a place with just one more room in it.

Monday, May 4, 2020

Sparkly and clean - for now

Awhile ago I had a battle with pigeons on my balcony.  They were roosting in groups, laid an egg in a flower pot, and had thoroughly coated the balcony with poop.  I pulled all the balcony funiture inside to deny them hiding spots, and they stopped coming by.

A few days ago I decided it was time to get things looking shiny out there again.

After four rounds of mopping, two rounds of sweeping, and two rounds of poop scrubbing, the place finally looks good again.  Getting the railing windows clean was tricky!  I could squeegee the top 80% of the outside, but that last 20% was going to involve significant risk of going over the edge.  Wendy and I managed to do a passable job my bending our arms under the railing though.

And now I can spend some of my quarantine time doing this:

Critter likes hanging out in the sun, and he likes sitting on people, so this is two of his favourite things combined together.  I love being naked, and I love sitting in the heat, but unfortunately people get all flustered when I am naked, so I have a minimal amount of clothing on to avoid confrontations... but I do have the sun on my skin and a fuzzy critter, so all is well.

And now the weather service has announced an upcoming shift towards unseasonably colder weather again.  Bring on the heat, I say!

Here's hoping that with the balcony furniture back outside again we don't get a return of the pigeons.  Neither side will prosper in that particular war.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Algorithms, smart and stupid

Facebook has been shoving a new ad at me.  I am full of ambivalence about it, because I both want to praise the targetting of the ad and also ridicule it.

The ad was for a jaw exercising device.   It looks like a donut shaped piece of silicone, and the idea is that you chew on it to give yourself a chiselled jawline.  The actor in the ad talked about being 48 and how he used the device to get back his youthful jaw.

I am 41, and into fitness, so that much they got right.

Unfortunately for them, they also assumed that I am ignorant and desperate.

You can't fix saggy skin with muscle exercises.  You also can't remove subcutaneous fat with targetted regimens.  You *can* generally remove subcutaneous fat from your body with exercise, but you sure as hell can't pick a spot and nuke the fat right there.  This jaw chiselling device is a ridiculous scam.  It is no different from the Ab Blasters I saw advertised on TV when I was young.  Exercise is good for you, sure, but you can't pick a spot and nuke it!  You can pick a spot and make it strong, but the body removes fat where it wants to.

Facebook is hit and miss with these things.  It does aim a lot of board game and video game ads at me, which is accurate, but it also really tries to sell me trucks, which is a total non starter.

But the truck ads are understandable.  I am in a age and income bracket where buying a vehicle is plausible.  The most outrageous miss I have ever seen is when FB started sending surrogate mother ads at me.  Much as I might like to help infertile people to have children, I lack some key things that are required for that endeavour.  Shouldn't FB have my sex sorted by now?

I can't quite sort out how much to respect algorithms.  Sending a gym rat like me ads for adjustable home dumbbells during a time when I can't go to a gym?  Great idea!  (I am not buying, but it is a well targetted ad.)  But singing lessons?  Not so much.

The algorithms are getting better, and sometimes they do make great decisions, but we are a long way away from Skynet.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Learning from disaster

The ongoing crisis has taught me some things.  While I hang out at home a lot, I apparently chafe at the requirement of staying home.  I suppose that isn't unusual, but present circumstances certainly bring it into stark relief.  I also discovered that while I support substantial restrictions on our collective behaviour to combat covid-19, some of them really grind on me.

Throughout my life a lot of things I try to do have been criticized by people under the umbrella of 'safety'.  Going barefoot, you can't do that because safety!  Polyamory, you can't do that, because safety!  Marijuana, you can't use that, because safety!

My usual response to this is to bristle with indignation and then swing back, hard.  I tend to go on about how those same people yelling about safety happily support all kinds of things that are drastically more dangerous, and argue that their real issue with my behaviour is simply that I am doing something different than they are used to, but they fall back on 'safety' when they have no real arguments.

Sometimes I don't have time for debating the topic and my response boils down to


It turns out the restrictions on behaviour because of Covid-19 push my buttons because of this.  I agree that I should stay at home, and I agree that we must endure inconvenience to make grocery shopping less likely to transmit diseases, and I agree with most the things we are doing.

But damn when authorities tell me how to live because 'safety' my instinct is to snarl and tell them to get bent.

Even though those arguments from safety are well grounded these days I have gotten so used to safety being thrown around as a catch all for 'I have no actual reasons or data' that it really winds me up.

This came up in regards to grocery store population caps.  Recently I was really grumpy after a grocery store visit where the security person enforcing store population sat on his phone ignoring everything and occasionally looked up and motioned a random bunch of people into the grocery store.  The cashiers were standing around bored because the security guard wasn't keeping enough people in the store, and the people waiting in the enormous line were standing close together, often chatting with one another.  Keeping us all in line was simply increasing the danger to all of us, not just wasting our time but also *increasing* our risk. 

It bothers me to restrict people's behaviour for no gain, but it *really* burns my bridge when regulations in the name of safety actually make things worse.  It is a tough thing to argue though, because I actually support greater safety measures that are effective, and if I argue against restrictions people will naturally assume I am in denial of some kind, or that I buy into the 'let all the old people die to save the stock market' thing.

While I don't think I will come out of this mess with new skills, I suspect I will end up at least learning a few things about myself.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Number Five

Planning orgies in Ontario just got a lot more complicated.  They aren't the easiest thing to plan at the best of times, but right now the challenge is extreme.

The government just announced that gatherings of more than five people are banned.  This leaves the door open for orgies, but just barely.  Three people is a threesome, four is a foursome, and five or more is an orgy, so orgies are still just barely legal.

There are some tricks to this though.  If you invite exactly five people to your orgy you have the problem that if anybody ditches you don't have an orgy anymore.  You might still have a grand time, but an orgy it is not.  During the best of times getting everyone to show up to an orgy is rough, and right now it is extra difficult between covid-19 and anxiety about covid-19.  Invite seven people and you might still not have enough, but if they all show up you are breaking the law, to say nothing of being extreme disease vectors.

However, we can get creative.  Hitting exactly five for an orgy is tough, but there are some exceptions in the government's five person policy that could potentially get us a venue for a larger group without breaking the law.

We could, for example, hold an orgy with up to ten people at a funeral.  I met The Flautist at a funeral so you can definitely pick up in that atmosphere.  A funeral orgy would require some real planning, but the flexibility to invite ten people and still proceed even if some of them decide to just mourn instead of have sex is useful.

Another exception we could use is to hold it at a child care center for front line workers.  This has some ... other challenges.  I suppose we could just invite ten people to a closet in a child care center, but I don't know that actually completing the orgy would be likely.  For some reason I imagine the police would have something to say about that.  The funeral plan looks a lot better.

The last possibility is holding it amongst your household.  Households larger than five people are allowed to hang out together, and nothing prevents you having an orgy amongst everyone living with you.  You just need a household where you have at least five adults willing to have an orgy already living together!  There is side benefit that if they accept the invite they can't beg off by claiming it is too far away or they don't have time - they are already there, and what else were they doing anyway?

It has been a long time since I lived in a household where an orgy amongst the residents would have been possible.  It wasn't ever going to happen in any case, but it would have been legal for us to do that back in 2001-2002.

So in Ontario it seems that your orgy options are quite limited.  A regular orgy ignores social distancing protocols, funerals are a tough sell for some people, and child care centers are full of children.  The only reasonable chance is to live with at least four other people in a household who all want to have an orgy with you.  Of course, if you already live in that situation you have it pretty good as far as orgies go!  Another example of the rich getting richer, it would seem.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Against the current

My life often involves me refusing to do what everyone else is doing.  Other people wear shoes, I refuse.  Other people refuse to put bananas in pasta sauce, I toss em right in.  (They were delicious, by the way.)

This time it is all about employment.  Around the world people are dealing with the loss of income due to social distancing protocols and the struggle to find work is real. 

I have spent the past 11 years unemployed, staying home with my kid, cooking and cleaning.  Getting a job seemed silly because I am needed here.

But now that all kinds of people are suddenly unemployed?  I am looking for work!

Not because of some money crunch, because my household luckily is supported by an extremely steady income, but simply because there is a desperate need for the work to get done.  A local hospital is hunting for people to do screening, so they need someone who can deal with upset and difficult people for extended periods while being assertive, authoritative, but compassionate.

This is a thing I am extremely well trained for.  They are only asking for a high school diploma, but I actually have work experience interfacing between a medical establishment and challenging clients, as well as a bunch of generic sales experience.  Heck, I was even known as the guy to park with a customer who had mental health challenges or who was having an emotional breakdown. 

They need exactly me for this!

So I applied for the job, part time.  I am sure the actual work will be wretched.  The screening gear will be terrible, dealing with sick and terrified people isn't fun, and there will be endless bureaucratic protocol that I hate.

But this has to get done, it has to get done well, and I am the person to do it.

Plus I desperately need to get out of my place and *do* something.

Not that I have the job yet.  They haven't called me for an interview or anything, much less given me the job.  But I have no doubt the combination of my expertise at interviews, excellent qualifications, and straight white guy privilege will get me through.

Maybe what I was waiting for all these years was a job I really wanted to do, because it really needed doing and I am actually the person who should be doing it.

Covid19 giveth, and Covid19 taketh away

Much of my life has vanished over the last week due to Covid19.  My gaming groups have all called it quits, my trips to Ottawa and Waterloo for gaming and socializing got cancelled, and now my building has closed the gym and hot tub for the forseeable future.  Aside from grocery shopping I have no reason at all to leave my condo anymore.

But while the virus has taken much from me, it has opened up new doors.  For example, even though I can't lift weights anymore because the gym is gone, I found something new to do in its stead, courtesy of our viral overlord.

Grocery bags filled with emergency food are my new weight lifting solution.  It isn't as good as proper weights of course, because exercises like deadlifts don't work with objects as large as this.  However, there are enough exercises that do work that I can use these as a clumsy and annoying replacement for proper weights.

As I said in my post a few weeks ago, I bought a lot of groceries well ahead of time to get prepared for the inevitable supply chain disruptions and the possibility of quarantine.  I collected the last few things this week, but my household was well prepared for this mess.  I may get bored of pasta and vegetable soup, but we won't go hungry.  Boost and ramen, as pictured above, aren't exactly my ideal meals, but my small person has particular tastes that must be accomodated.

You might wonder why I am weighing bags down with packages of ramen - surely those weigh nothing?  You would be right that they a bag full of ramen would be nearly worthless.  However, the bottoms of these bags are full of canned soup and bags of beans, which add considerably more heft.  They still weigh quite a bit less than the weights I am used to using, but I just increased my reps to make up for that and overall it still works.

Grocery bags full of cans don't have nearly the flexibility of a proper weight room though, so I expect that there are certain muscles that won't be getting the workout I desire.  I am going to be doing two hundred pushups a day in additional to grocery based exercises, so at least my ability to launch myself up off the floor will remain intact.

Covid19 can take away my gaming.  It can take away my dates.  But it cannot take my muscles!

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Making it up as we go along

I like my science fiction hard.  I want stories where a strange thing is proposed, and then the writer takes a long look at what that would do to society.  I don't like stories that are set in the future but in which everything is resolved with techno babble and space wizardry.

When I watched the first season of Altered Carbon I quite liked it.  It had some issues, notably the excessive sexual violence against women, the star actor having only a single expression, and the departures from the books in ways that weren't useful, but I still had a positive watching experience.  It did the thing I want science fiction to do where it built a consistent, believable universe and explored the consequences of a particular scientific discovery - the ability to move human consciousness from body to body and preserve it after the death of the meatsack.

I read all three books in the series and enjoyed them too.  The followup books weren't as good as the first, but there was still something there that I appreciated.  When I heard of season 2 I eagerly awaited the adaptation of book 2.  The reviews were positive and particularly highlighted how it was better than season 1, so I had high expectations.

Those expectations were dashed.  There were good things - I liked the queer and POC representation in the show better.  The lead actor was a considerable improvement.

But the story.... ack.  Instead of writing an installment that built on the first season, they decided to just randomly change physics and technology whenever they had a cool scene to write.  The AIs in particular were a neverending sack of nonsense technobabble in the service of unnecessary details.  Want to have a certain spot look a certain way?  Mumble about nano swarms and then have it just happen.  Want to threaten an AI?  Mumble about code and have it just happen.

It makes me sad when writers clearly give up.  Instead of building a compelling story in the world they have created, they just decide to change the world any time the facts get in the way of whatever thing they want to do.  I can't be excited about threats to characters when the threats are nonsensical, nor thrilled by solutions when they are pulled straight out of somebody's ass.  It is especially egregious when they use a solution for one thing and then refuse to use it for another because they want to make up some new stupid random thing to solve that.

Character abilities also shift without warning.  Sometimes people are unbeatable fighting machines, and then in the next scene they get bested by some random chumps because they needed to get arrested because plot.  Equipment randomly acquires or loses abilities for convenience, so it is hard to have any idea what anyone can do.  At one point the characters are standing at the scene of a battle, completely surrounded by well equipped dead fighters.  However, the next scene needs them to be at a particular gun store, so they announce that they need guns and head off to the gun store, leaving reams of excellent armament just sitting on the ground.

I can't get into a story that silly.  Nothing feels serious or real, and the emotional moments end up being contrived instead of poignant.  It is sad, because the source material gave them a ton to work with, and instead they created an entirely new story, one that is held together by the flimsiest of plots.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Armageddon, only not quite

Covid-19 is coming.  At this point the consensus is that everyone in the world is going to get it, pretty much, and a bunch of us are going to die of it.  That doesn't mean you should not worry about passing it on, of course.  Slowing the rate of infection is a great way to improve our response quality and lower the burden on the system at any given time.  Somewhere between .5% and 3% are going to die of it, most likely, with a heavy lean towards older people dying.  It isn't a thing to be trifled with.

Watching what people say about this is a fascinating exercise.  I have seen posts talking about how scary it is and emphasizing that everyone needs to wash their hands a lot, but also posts talking about how the flu has killed many more people this year than Covid-19, so calm the fuck down.  When something siezes the public imagination like this I can't help but stare at the human reactions in awe and wonder.

Personally, I am stocking up on food and medicine.  Not because civilization is going to end, because it won't, but if a ton of people get sick and governments start implementing quarantines supply chains start breaking.  Who knows what food and medicine I will be able to get when Toronto's infection situation is at its worst?  Also if I end up having to be home ill for weeks on end and can't go out without risking passing the infection on, I should have all my shopping taken care of.

I talked to the Flautist about this and it worried her a great deal.  Not just the news, but my response.  I have a 'bah, the world will be fine, don't panic' response to all kinds of things in the news that get other people all aflutter.  This is different though.  I have extra packs of menstrual supplies, toilet paper, ibuprofen, and cleaning products along with tons of dried food.  Not because it is time to panic, but because other people will be panicking and I need to get out ahead of them in building a stash.  I will end up using all the stuff I have bought anyway, so it won't go to waste.

It is going to be extra difficult on those who are in precarious financial situations.  I have the money to buy a month's worth of everything and it isn't a problem.  Some people don't though, and as usual when there is a systemic disruption it is the poor who won't be able to stretch to get past it.

Seriously though, you should stock up.  Don't fool yourself with things like "aww, it won't be that bad" because even if you are only kinda sick, you are going to be morally obligated to stay home, and you will need things.  Don't try to weasel out with "meh, I will just get food delivered" because if 25% of the delivery people are out sick, and 10 times as many people as usual want food delivered, you aren't getting that delivery.  Figure out a way to store a bunch of the food, medicine, toiletries, and other necessities of life now, while supply chains are still intact and getting those things is easy. 

There are already stores that are running out of things, partly because of panic, partly because so much of our stuff is manufactured in China.  Don't be the last person to realize what is coming.

Civilization is going to be fine.  You, on the other hand, might not.  So have a plan, and make sure that plan doesn't include getting scammed, because I have already seen Covid-19 based marketing out there, and more will be coming.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Fancy boots

When I buy clothes I don't buy fancy things.  I buy something solid, sturdy, but cheap.  I always thought it absurd to pay a lot of money for clothes, because why spend cash just to put on a display?  Being dressed up and being around people who are wearing expensive things makes me feel out of place, so I would rather avoid situations where that is required.

A few years ago Wendy bought boots.  It was quite odd, because she brought me with her and got my opinion on the colour and fit, but then asked me to hang out outside the store while she paid for them.  I wasn't sure why, until she explained that she wanted to buy them before I looked at the price and had a heart attack over it.  Blundstones are excellent boots, she told me, but the $250 price tag would have made me weep.

I wouldn't try to talk her out of buying such a thing, but I definitely would have choked and sputtered when I first saw the tag, that much is certain.  Spending more than $70 on boots?  Madness!

But recently my inlaws told me they wanted to buy me boots for Christmas.  My old boots were perfectly fine still, as they only had a couple of 5cm holes in them, but other people have different standards than me, I guess.  I know they would prefer I buy something of high quality and damn the expense, so I went out and dropped a giant pile of money on boots.  It made me twitch a little, slapping down my credit card, but I did it.

For the first time ever I am wearing fashionable boots in winter.  Aside from dress shoes for work and formal events I have never actually worn footwear that I would consider stylish, but now it is happening on a daily basis.

Perhaps these things aren't stylish where you are, or maybe they aren't practical, but in Toronto in the winter these boots are where it is at.  You need a little bit of insulation for the 0 degree weather, and you need them to be waterproof for the slush, but you don't need gigantic boots that go up to the knee either, we don't have enough snow for that.  These boots are exactly it, good looking, trendy, and completely practical.

I have even gotten reactions to them from other people.  Those reactions have all been "Dude, you paid real money for clothes?  What has happened to the Sky I know that wears all cheap stuff all the time?"

It is bizarre to be walking down the street knowing that some people would look at the stuff I am wearing and think that I am the sort of person that buys things because they are a symbol.  It is like I am some sort of different person entirely.  Who is this man?

There is a Sam Vimes theory of boots that says that you need to buy expensive boots because they will cost four times as much but last ten times as long as the cheap ones.  So far Wendy's boots have stood up extremely well, so the theory is working for the moment.  Perhaps I have been foolish all these years, buying cheap stuff that only lasted me five years and these new boots will last me twenty years and be worth every penny.

Perhaps not.

In any case I am going to wear them until they are a pile of leather scraps, because I certainly don't want to buy a second quality pair of boots in my lifetime.  One should do!

Thursday, February 20, 2020

To cheat, or not

I recently joined a facebook group called polyamory memes.  Mostly it is a bunch of people sharing meme pictures about how the world doesn't understand their relationships.  I get it, but I am ruthless about pruning my facebook feed until only the best stuff remains, so I will probably leave the group again shortly.

Today though there was a post there which got me thinking.

“Watching porn isn’t chea-“
Cheating is anything against the rules those in the relationship agreed to. In some relationships, porn is cheating. In some relationships, getting triple penetrated by strangers in a truck stop bathroom is totally ok.
The dishonesty and disrespect for your partner’s boundaries is what defines cheating. Not a list of actions."
Obviously the comments were a mess of people arguing for and against this position.  I think that this particular disagreement, like many disagreements, quickly falls apart once you correctly unpack the details.
People can have whatever agreements they want.  Certainly if you and your partner agree that watching porn is cheating, then for you, it is.  Fine.  Most of the time this is done for ridiculous reasons that reinforce sex negative cultural norms, but some people obviously have fair reasons for this sort of restriction.  Personally I would laugh at anyone who planned on policing my porn watching or masturbatory habits, but you do you.
The key is that when people say porn isn't cheating, they aren't generally talking about a relationship where one person lays out early that they have huge issues with porn, and can't abide a partner that watches it.  When people say porn isn't cheating, they mean that it shouldn't be taken as automatically cheating in the absence of a specific discussion on the matter.  Mostly the exact details of what constitutes cheating in a given relationship are never discussed.  Both people assume that the 'triple penetration in a truck stop by total strangers' scenario would be cheating, and that having sexual thoughts about someone other than your partner is not cheating, but many of the details in between are undefined.
'Watching porn isn't cheating' is designed for the situation where two people get together, don't talk about their expectations or limits, become exclusive, and then get to arguing about what their agreements should have been, long after those agreements were already in place.  In that situation people should not assume that porn is cheating - you have to define that specifically.  You should not, three years into an exclusive relatinship, tell your partner that by the way, you define porn as cheating, and if they watch it, they are cheating.  You have to get that kind of thing on the table right away.
Of course we should get all of our stuff on the table in a hurry.  We should discuss monogamy or not, kink or not, 24/7 D/s or not, tickling feet or not, and all the other dealbreakers we have before anybody commits to a relatinship in a serious way.  
What we should be saying, rather than 'Watching porn isn't cheating' is 'No one gets to claim their partner is cheating or otherwise violating their trust just for watching porn unless that person agreed not to and violated that agreement.'  
It is absurd and destructive to decide that your personal relationship boundaries are going to be written simply by following cultural norms.  You can do better than that!  But if you are going to follow cultural norms and refuse to think for yourself, then don't go into a relationship and assume you can use that as leverage to prevent a partner from watching porn unless you get their enthusiastic buy in at the start.  (Even if you do get said buy in, get ready to be disappointed when they break that rule anyway.)
In the absence of a detailed discussion, porn should not be assumed to be cheating.  You should have that detailed discussion though, no matter what your expectations are.  If you then prohibit your partner from cheating and they accept that, ethically you are in a fine place, but you should definitely plan on what to do when they go ahead and break that rule anyhow.
Lastly, if you are going to rail against something on the internet, try not to strawman quite so hard, mkay?

Friday, February 14, 2020

A conflict of trains of thought

I am watching.

When I am on the streetcar here in Toronto I can't help but watch people board to see if they paid their fare.  Mostly they do, but there are a significant number who simply walk past the pad and don't tap a card.

Some are under 13 and are free anyway.

Some have already paid on another leg of their route and don't need to pay again.

Some are just refusing to pay and cheating the system.

It bothers me to see this, but I can't look away.  I haven't ever done anything about it, because obviously I can't distinguish between the people who are transferring from another route and those who are refusing to pay, but it irks me and I can't help but leaping to conclusions. 

Doubly frustrating is that I halfways agree with those who are skipping out on paying.  Public transit costing money is stupid.  We waste huge amounts of money just collecting that money.  Installing card readers, taking payments, having people standing around to explain how to pay, all of these things aren't free.  We should just tax more and make all public transit free!  Why did we start wasting so much time and effort collecting tiny fees for this anyway?  We don't do so for roads!

I know why.  The poor can't be allowed to just get things for free!  Roads are for those with more wealth, public transit is for the poor, and giving the poor a free ride is anathema.  Rich people already have it easy, might as well keep on with that. 

We have bus fares because of classism, pure and simple.

(If you have been around here a while, you will note that "Because classism, obviously!" is my answer to most things.)

I do think that while we are all generally paying for transit you should pay for transit.  Dumping costs onto other people is a shitty thing to do, especially if paying those costs isn't a serious burden for you.  But I can't help but hope that the new system is a step on the slow road to getting rid of paying for public transit altogether.

I will definitely continue hoping and advocating for free public transit.  Yes, it will cost me in taxes, and yes, I will happily pay those taxes to avoid the waste that comes with collecting tiny fees.  But in the meanwhile I will keep watching to see who pays and who doesn't.  Not because I should, but because I can't stop.

Friday, February 7, 2020

Ratchet up the intolerance

Recently I stumbled upon a fascinating little bit of writing that got me riled up about relationship anarchy.  The piece I read is a summary of things that happened at a relationship anarchy conference.  For years I have identified myself as polyamorous, and while that is still technically correct, it isn't the best possible descriptor of how I view relationships.  Relationship anarchy is definitely a better box for me to be in.  Polyamory, in the sense of multiple loves, is definitely true... but it also doesn't cover just how much I want to change the way people do relationships.

I don't buy into everything the document says.  The writers have lots of views on economics that can be charitably viewed as highly optimistic, or realistically viewed as naive and absurd.  However, their views on the way monogamy is intertwined with consumerism, colonialism, and religious oppression are right on the mark.

As the years have gone by my attitude towards monogamy has continually shifted.  Initially I saw it as the only way to be, then as the most practical way to be, then as the easy default.  Eventually I stopped doing monogamy and I saw it as not my style, then as a troublesome concern, then as a disaster.  These days I largely see monogamy as simply wrong.

Don't misunderstand - I don't think anybody needs to love or have sex with lots of people.  Any number of partners is fine, from zero to all.  The problem is forcing someone else to have a specific number of partners.  The older I get the more angry and intolerant I get of doing that to anyone.

I have said it before and I will probably say it again - if you told someone they were not allowed to have other friends, or other relatives, or other people that have any sort of relationship, you would be widely viewed as abusive, delusional, evil, or all three.  The same would be true if a friend insisted that they had the right to dictate how many romantic/sexual partners you have.  Certainly people would agree that such demands should be ignored.  But society does the opposite for romantic/sexual relationships, for no good reason.  We by default grant one person power that nobody should have, and imagine that it is not only acceptable, but even necessary or virtuous.

There are reasons monogamy is so popular.  It is because the *&$@?* christian churches controlled Europe while Europe colonized and controlled most of the world.  The church wanted to make sure that the only way people could relate romantically or sexually was with one man owning one woman in a structure *controlled by the church*, and its influence on powerful states covered the world in a wretched pall, removing freedom and flexibility in pursuit of misogynistic ownership of humans.

That isn't a good reason.

Pushing back against this is fraught with issues.  There are all kinds of people I like who are monogamous, and I risk alienating them when I rant against their lifestyle choices.

But that worry is losing out to the worry that I might be wasting my opportunity to do the right thing.  I might be placating the monster when I ought to be taking up arms against it.  I have 45 years left in me, roughly speaking, and I don't want to get to the end of that and look back thinking that I didn't speak the truth.

I don't usually like the plans the anarchists come up with.  I do like their principles though, and placidly plodding along, accepting the status quo as inevitable though not ideal does not fit with those principles.

There are people out there who are going to be smacking their foreheads, thinking "Geez, he is going to get even more confrontational and nonconformist?" 

Yes.  Yes I am.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Maids and cooks and chauffeurs for all

The internet has been shovelling ads at me for food delivery.  Uber Eats and Skip the Dishes in particular have paid Google a small fortune to try to get me to buy food on the internet and have it delivered.

It is all a scam, a show, a grandoise lie.

These companies want me to believe that I can have servants.  I don't have to do the dishes, cook food, or drive.  Best of all, this is all extremely cheap!  It is almost too good to be true.

It is too good to be true.

I can have servants, yes.  I can get food delivered to me, I can have people show up to drive me places, and I can skip on the whole 'paying for it' bit.  But somebody always pays, and in this case it is the people doing those deliveries and driving those cars.

Notice how no company is offering food delivery services where employees that get a salary, benefits, and vacation do deliveries using company vehicles?  Know why that is?  Because no customers will pay the cost associated with such deliveries.

People doing these deliveries are doing so out of desperation or ignorance.  The amount they get paid isn't nearly enough to pay for the costs of car maintenance, gas, and a reasonable wage.  They get an hourly wage that works for now, and then they get hit with all the bills later, and the companies that hired them get rich off of the depreciation of the workers' assets.

If you think food delivery can profitably happen for $5, you are delusional.  Companies aren't offering that because they are efficient, they are offering that because they are ruining the lives of the gig workers who do the actual deliveries for them.  This isn't a company coming in to do things better, it is just another scam to siphon money off from those who are desperate and funnel it upwards.

What Uber and Skip the Dishes and Lyft are doing is simple.  They aren't employers paying people to deliver a service, they are banks offering loans to poor people at heinous rates.  They are doing the same thing as Cash Money and Money Mart and other similar payday loan businesses do - finding someone who is desperate for cash right now and leveraging them for profit.  They ruin people.  That is the *only* way their business model works.  If you had to pay the real cost of your Uber ride you wouldn't do it, and old style taxis would come back into vogue.  If you had to front the actual cost of your food delivery you wouldn't bother because it would cost as much for the delivery as it did for the food.

We can't all have servants.  Anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to exploit you, or the servants.

You actually have to cook.  Or you have to drive.  Or you have to fucking *pay* for those things.  If the deal seems to good to be true, it is.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

So much poop

When I bought my condo there was pigeon netting covering the balcony.  It was ugly, but I figured it must be necessary if everyone had it up.  Over the next few years it decayed, and finally I tore it all down.  Never once did I see a pigeon.  For ten years the balcony stayed happily free of both pigeon netting and pigeons.

But not anymore.  This past month pigeons have taken up residence on my balcony and made a gigantic mess of the place.  We have constantly heard their cooing noises and rushed out to the balcony to yell at them.  Being hardened avian citizens of Toronto they are used to humans fussing at them and we had to get awfully close to make them run away.  Apparently they are quite sure that fussing does not lead to actual danger.

After a few weeks of this the balcony was covered in bird poop.  I got increasingly frustrated by seeing a place I love to hang out become coated in it, and realized that the fussing was worthless.

Today I went outside and the pigeon wouldn't move even when I got right up into its face.  When I came within centimeters of the creature it finally flew away, and lo and behold I found the reason for its incredible courage.

Not only am I running a dorm room for pigeons who make a mess and never clean up, I am also apparently running a pigeon factory to produce more of the pests.

Time to fix this mess!

I realized that the pigeons must be on my balcony for a reason - they are hunting for nesting areas.  They clearly want to be secure from the elements and hidden from the birds of prey that hunt them, so I yanked everything off the balcony.  The bike we had stored out there for years is now given away, the chairs are packed into corners or our storage locker, and the balcony is empty, except for the spattering of bird poop stains everywhere.  I will clean those up properly once it isn't freezing out there.

I also have to figure out what to do with the pigeon egg.  Pinkie Pie was sad at the prospect of tossing it out, I don't know if eating a pigeon egg is a good idea, and while I wanted to get rid of it with extreme prejudice, maybe a 'kill em all' approach isn't the best behaviour to model with a kid.  Children make simple things more complicated!

And then I will put up some new damn netting.  We had a good ten years there with no pigeons, but I guess the wheel has turned round again.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

A deadly virus

This past weekend The Flautist, Naked Man, Amazon, Wendy, myself, and two people who don't yet have creative names on my blog all went to do an escape game called Pathogen.  It is held at a fantastic escape room place here in Toronto that I have been to before, and I have been consistently impressed with its offerings.  This latest one was no exception.

Note that I will be discussing some things about the escape game, so there will be thematic spoilers.  However, I won't discuss any of the puzzles directly, so it shouldn't affect your results, should you attempt it.

The theme of Pathogen is that we are doing a heist in a dystopian future.  There is a deadly virus and we have to break into the place holding it.  The environment felt a lot like the Portal game - futuristic computer panels and graphics combined with tubes and knobs.  A slick mishmash of high tech and functional engineering is how I would describe it.  It works.

In every escape room group you need to figure out how to divide up jobs.  We have a bunch of puzzle experts in the group so I figured I would take the role of large man who whacks things.  You don't have to destroy stuff to win an escape room of course, but sometimes having someone focus on the physical tasks is beneficial.  Plus I take immense glee in throwing myself down dark tunnels not knowing what is at the end and I do not fear dirt nor discomfort.

Naked Man organized the group, and he puts together a good crew.  He certainly wants to set records, and he knows a lot of people who are good at this sort of thing, so getting onto his teams is a good way to experience success.  When I am not around he generally gets to be the one doing the physical tasks, but it is hard to do that in a group I am in because I am already throwing myself down the tunnel and you can just try to catch up.

I ended up being a bit of a hybrid between solving puzzles and doing physical tasks.  I figured out a couple of the puzzles on my own and was part of a team doing others.  As usual after we ended the round there were some puzzles I had absolutely no idea about that other people solved while I wasn't looking - I could probably run the game again and spend half my time doing totally new things.  However, I absolutely got to do the most fun physical part of the game - lasers!  You know in movies when the protagonist is sneaking through a maze of lasers to get to the thing?  I got to do that, on a clock, worried about alarms.  It was magnificent.  It turns out that you can finish the lasers either by being small or by being tall, but if you are neither you are pretty screwed.  Thankfully I have the tall bit all wrapped up and I completed the lasers quickly without any alarms blaring.  I also got to crawl through tunnels and tubes which was excellent.

The theme of Pathogen was brilliantly executed.  I felt wrapped up in the show, to the extent that at one point I thought "We need to get in the elevator and go to another floor in this building"... and then remembered that the 'elevator' is just a room with some display panels, not an actual elevator!  There were 7 possible endings to the game which reflected choices you made throughout, and they felt appropriate when we learned about them all later.  The one thing that marred the experience was that we made one choice but then got the ending sequence for a slightly different choice when we finally finished solving everything.  A small glitch, but one which didn't reduce the fun much.

We finished up in 40 minutes, leaving us 20 minutes on the clock still.  Our score was 4350, which is slightly more than double the average score of 2150, and was the monthly high score.  Go team!

I had a blast, and everyone else seemed to feel the same way.  Finishing with a high score is a rush, and Naked Man and I have spent time since discussing the puzzles we missed and how we might have done better in order to get that score to be an all time record instead of just a monthly one.  A couple conclusions we had were that we needed someone dedicatd to not solving puzzles who would just watch over the whole crew and read stuff.  A manager, essentially.  Also we should cut down on the number of people.  5 or 6 is ideal, but 7 left people just in the way or with nothing to do at some points, and made communication more difficult.

The one trouble with escape games is that they aren't cheap.  They are pretty much the best thing going in entertainment though, so while I don't like the price I certainly want to pay it again.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Bribing me with my own money

The Ontario government is trying to bribe me to hate teachers.  Recently the government decided to slash education funding in high school, aiming to increase class sizes up to 45 kids in some instances, and start a big trend towards mandatory online learning.  Right when Pinkie Pie is about to head off to high school... great.  When elementary teachers decided to strike in protest, the government offered to give money to parents to offset childcare costs.  They are all about not spending money on educating kids, but when it comes to tossing it around randomly at parents who vote, well, there is money for that!

I have seen arguments that these changes actually aren't so bad.  After all, in university courses often have more than 100 students, and much learning takes place online.

This is true, of course.  For people like me for whom school was easy neither of these things is all that bad.  I could have easily done high school by reading websites or in huge classrooms.  No problem.

But I am not the only student, nor am I the average student.  I am one of the top people out there in terms of finding school easy.  You could teach me that content in any pants-on-head stupid way and I would get it.  Other students will not.

Our focus should not be on whether the top students can survive, it should be on whether the struggling students can thrive.  This is the metric where the new changes are a disaster.  Kids who struggle with terrible home situations, learning disabilities, poverty, or other challenges need teachers who have the time to spare to help them.  They need educators who can see their difficulties and step in to help them.  "Here is a website" is a nightmare for those kids, and they will learn nothing. 

I have also seen arguments that online learning will be good because it can introduce competition into the school system.  This is foolishness incarnate.  Competition just means that we will find some way to score students and then we will pay companies to raise student scores.  There won't be measurements for emotional regulation, no allowances for outside challenges will be made, and the end result will be companies producing content designed explicitly to get higher grades on a standardized test.  The ability to get a high score on a specific high school test is worthless to employers and terrible for general education. 

For kids that are struggling we need teachers who can help them, and we need those teachers to be managing 20-25 kids, not 40+.  Trashing education is exactly the sort of thing that sends countries spiralling downward.

Right now my government has decided to torch the future, and their response to criticisms is to blame the teachers or tell people to go to private school.  They are trying to bribe parents to support their actions, and it is reprehensible.

I am glad that the teachers are taking a stand to push back against this awful nonsense.  Taking money from children's education to pump it into stock portfolios is foolish governance based on the Conservative philosophy of taking a dump on those who are poor or struggling to give to the rich.  It must not stand.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Big scary man

I sometimes have daydreams or fantasies about fighting people.  They are mostly banal revenge fantasies where I beat up a group of teenagers threatening my daughter or somesuch.  I assume that such an occasion will never come to pass, and certainly it would be best if the opportunity never arose to test my mettle in such a way.

Today seemed like it might be a day where I get to find out if I can fight as well in person as I can in my imagination.  Thankfully no fighting of any sort occurred and the question of my martial capabilities is as yet unresolved.

Pinkie Pie called me up to say that her friends were being chased and harassed by a group of teenage boys from the local high school.  She and her friends needed to get somewhere, but they were worried about what would happen if the big kids found them.

An opportunity to be big and scary and yell at teenagers?  I am in!

I put on my usual outfit, which is pretty well suited to this cause.  It is a leather jacket, black leather gloves, and sturdy boots.

Also a knitted rainbow striped hat.

When I got to the elevator and looked in the mirror I realized that although the rainbow hat is a fine fashion statement usually, it really did not help me at all in the 'looking scary' department, so I stashed it my pocket.  If I really wanted to rock the scary biker man aesthetic I should invest in some facial tattooes I think, but thus far the call for that look has been lacking, so my tattooes are all under cover.

I walked the kids three blocks out and three blocks back, and absolutely nothing whatsoever happened.  We were on busy streets the entire time so even if the troublesome teenage miscreants had been about nothing would have happened, but I am glad I could set their minds at ease.  I remember being scared of other kids when I was young, so I don't mind providing moral support.

I wasn't looking for a fight.  Much as my fantasies would like to be fulfilled, real fights suck.  You can get punched in the face, and getting punched in the face sucks.  What I really wanted was a chance to go all Scary Man on some evil teenagers and make them regret harassing smaller people.  Scaring smaller people is ethically sound when it is in retaliation, right?


But no intimidation was required, just walking.

Much like the rest of parenting, there was hope for excitement, worries about danger, and then a whole lot of tedium.

I did learn to not take my rainbow hat out when my job is to be a big scary man though, so at least I am practiced up for when it happens for real.  I wouldn't want to screw that one up!

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Armageddon, but for farms

I am back from Farmageddon.  I travelled to North Carolina on the 26th and got home yesterday.  It was a grand time with so many games played.  Even though the event was themed around the game Agricola I only played it five times over ten days of gaming - I don't even know how many different games I played but I had a great time in any case.

North Carolina gives me culture shock.  The group at Farmageddon was pretty liberal and fit with my politics fine, but when driving around or wandering through airports I was often taken aback.  Last time the thing that got me was the emphasis on the military and veneration of active duty military personnel, as well as people wearing clothes that made it clear they wanted to murder people.  This time the strange thing was medical ads.

There are advertising pushes for hospitals here in Canada, but they are fundraising drives.  I think this is stupid and we should just tax more to fund them properly rather than wasting money making ads, but I don't get to decide this stuff unfortunately.  However, in the US the ads were different because they didn't seem to be about fundraising but rather about recruiting patients.  The idea of medical institutions having ad teams to drum up business blows my fucking mind.  How is this the way it works?

I knew that medicine in the US was privatized, of course.  Sometimes though these things catch me unawares and I realize that I hadn't followed it to its logical conclusion.  Why is healthcare in the US so ludicrously expensive?  Lots of reasons... but one of them is patients are paying for advertising aiming to bring in more patients!

The free market is a useful tool, good at many things.  Running hospitals is not one of them.

A consequence of travelling to visit my parents from the 21st to 25th and then travelling to play board games from the 26th to 6th is that my workout routine is completely disrupted.  I can do pushups anywhere, and I can do pullups off of a beam at my parent's place, but that isn't a proper workout.

During Farmageddon I found another person who was really into the whole gym rat lifestyle, and we figured out how to get our workouts into days that are full of games.  We set up challenges where we would do clap pushups based on game actions, which ended up with me doing something like 75 clap pushups over the course of a single game.  I made a lot of time in between game turns into pushup time over the days I was away, but I really didn't know how my fitness level would hold up.  Today I finally got back to the routine, and I found out that my constant pushup sets during gaming kept those muscles in good shape.  All of my push exercises were no problem.  The other exercises were pretty rough though.  However, this means it shouldn't take long for me to get completely back into fighting shape.

I wonder how much me running away from the game table to crack out 25 pushups all the time affected other people.  Were they just laughing at me?  Annoyed at the interruption?  Vaguely amused that I refused to take a week off?  I don't know!  I do know that I feel better when I get my muscles sore though, so I am going to keep on doing this as a way to cope with a lack of a proper gym.

As much as I enjoyed my time there though, I am glad to be home.  I need my own space, my own kitchen, my own computer, and some quiet and silence.  No matter how great people are, at some point I gotta run away.  I certainly am not an extreme introvert, but I trend that way without a doubt.