Monday, April 28, 2014

Learned a new trick for the OCD speech repetition

Caitlin went to the zoo yesterday with my ex-wife and her grandmother for her half-brother's first birthday party.  She said she had fun, took a picture of a lion and a tiger, and she seemed happy...but she came home tired and overwhelmed, and ended up having a meltdown before bedtime.  The meltdown ended in tears, but at least she didn't throw things around or break anything.  It was just constant repetition, total frustration, a shutdown, then screaming and crying.

Kids have tantrums, and they're usually over something they want or attention they're not getting.  With a meltdown, it's about sensory overload, and kids with autism have to do something to get their minds in order, something to calm the mental storm to get back into a more peaceful, pleasant mode.

I learned a trick today, and the next time the repetition starts that marks the meltdown's beginning, I am going to try it, because it works with the OCD repetition.  I learned it from one of the aids at Caitlin's school.  They carry a whiteboard around, and every time Caitlin starts repeating something, they write it down.  Instead of Caitlin repeating it, she will read it from that point on.

I have a whiteboard somewhere around here, but I didn't have it handy when she came home from school, so I grabbed a notebook.  I wrote down things she repeated.  It calmed her very quickly and made her smile.

I'm going to work with this trick and see if I can make it progress to her writing it down herself, or perhaps typing it into her laptop.  Perhaps she can type it to me in a chat client, and I can type back to her...and make that interaction progress into communication.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Labor is not the worst pain there is

I understand that labor is painful.

I've witnessed women in labor, and yeah, it hurts. But some people act like it's the worst pain ever, and it's not. No, it's not. It's fucking not. Stop that. I can give you an example.

Every woman I've known who has had a kidney stone tells me that it's more painful than labor. 

I've had that pain. Now, this isn't about one-upmanship; it's about combating ignorance. Someone bashed someone else for whining about a pain that I'm pretty sure is similar to one my ex-wife had, and I'm also certain that I had the male equivalent. In addition to that one, I've had three other pains worse than a kidney stone. Here are the worst pains I've ever felt in the order of severity:

 1. Four-week long head pain from fluid buildup on my brain. It was debilitating. There was nothing else in my world but pain. I wouldn't wish it on anyone. I know what migraines are. This was worse. My mom knows what I'm talking about, because she had a brain tumor. It's like that.

2. Hot coal embedded into the skin of my right bicep. This one might be at the top, but it didn't last four weeks. I was ten years old when it happened, and I still remember how harsh it was. I can't imagine what people who have had severe burns over more of their body have felt.

3. Testicular torsion. This was the pain I had last July, and it didn't really go away for a month. I spent most of the first day vomiting.

4. The first six months of my chronic back pain. There were no comfortable positions. I got very little sleep. It was 24/7 pinched nerve pain. I am still in pain in that area of my back, and I get a taste of that intensity from time to time, but now it's more like a constant toothache-like pain in my back.

5. Kidney stones. These are what women tell me are worse than labor. My mom, nurses at the hospital (I was passing a stone at the same time as the testicular torsion, so I noticed it, but barely; I've now passed three), other women I know who have had them.

So yeah. I don't complain about my pain very often, but the comment I read set me off (I'm paraphrasing), although it was about someone else: "I gave birth to a 9lb 2 oz baby and you don't hear me whining." The person who talked about her pain simply talked about it; she wasn't whining, and the pain she's in? I don't know, but given the symptoms my ex had with her ovary issues, I would say it's a lot like testicular torsion, and childbirth has nothing on it. Bottom line: if someone is talking about pain, don't dismiss it out of hand. Even if you think they're whining, they're in pain--they're irritable. I know; I'm always trying to control my irritability, because I'm always in pain. It's been 19 years for my neck now, 10 for my back, and I think I stay pretty nice most of the time.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Help me change the world

Who wants to help me change the world?

It's just an idea I've been musing over at this point. I don't have the capital to do even attempt to begin, but what if:

-We built an attraction that would promote science in a place that is deficient of places that promote science. Anyone who is familiar with science centers knows what I'm talking about...but we make it a place not only where people come to explore science from modern and historical science exhibits, but where people can meet, socialize, drink, eat, would have its own cafe and restaurants, as well as a library/reading room.

-Since people will be coming to see the place, we can seed the area economy by helping local entrepreneurs start restaurants, hotels, and other businesses related to tourism. But here's the catch: every business would have to model itself to pay employees a living wage.

-People will need to live in the area to work; commuting doesn't cut it for long if the distance isn't, new housing construction. More help to the local economy.

-Since the people living and working in the area will need goods and services, seed manufacturing and supply chain industries, and model them after the living wage, as well.

I don't know if it will work. I'm just thinking it might help a local economy and bring back the middle class in some part of the world. Anyone with me?

If this first goal is met, the project's first phase can begin, and another campaign to fund the venture capital to start the rest of the project will begin.

If you want to support this project, go to:

Reflections on home therapy

While progress has been made in the area of providing autism therapy through insurance and through government sources, in many places, there's still an income component to the process of qualifying for it, and that usually leaves people like me out of the running.  However, I also don't have a lot of disposable income, so I have to do my own research and apply some therapy myself.  I have to become an amateur speech and occupational therapist to help my child's progress. I think it might be helpful to other parents to read about some of the things I've done to help my child along, so I will be doing articles from that angle.  This article is one of them.

When I first learned that Caitlin had autism, I started reading.  I bought a few books and looked up online resources.  One of the books (I do not remember which one; it has been years and I have all of my books in storage at the moment, anticipating my upcoming move) talked about socialization and eye contact.  Eye contact helps children with autism become more social, more affectionate, and more engaged.  It gave techniques on how to gain eye contact, and this one worked for us: I would choose a toy she recognized, hold it close to my face, and had her look at me before giving her the toy.  I turned it into a game with her--one she thoroughly enjoyed.  I worked with her for a few minutes the first time, then about fifteen minutes, then a half hour.  It wasn't long before she was looking me in the eyes.

An amazing transformation took place.  I have video somewhere of her fourth birthday, and if I find it, I will embed it here, because it really shows how she was before I worked with her.  She would not look anyone in the eye, only spoke in monotone, and had no expression of emotion whatsoever,  In a matter of days, she was starting to smile, laugh, and express herself as best she could.  She has a language delay; her vocabulary is huge, but her ability to hold a conversation isn't there.  We communicate, but we don't converse.  Still, she was showing positive emotion (and negative, of course), and even better, she engaged in affection.  She always wanted me to hug her and hold her.  

It's amazing to me how much progress she made, simply from getting her to have eye contact with me, and we formed a strong bond as a result.  It also helped her bond with other people later, because she could get feedback on how they received her from the expressions on their faces, which she wasn't reading when she wasn't looking at them.  How could she?  We can often process emotion from tone of voice, but what did tone of voice mean to her?  It was one more connection made, and it was huge.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Extended school year, moving, positive stuff

Today, I attended a meeting at my daughter's school to discuss the extended school year program.  Caitlin's teacher, Ms. Griest, went through all of the reasons why kids go through the extended school year program, most of which are academic.  It made me very happy to learn that none of those reasons applied to my kid, in spite of all of the school she missed this year.  She is progressing fine academically.  The main reason her school is recommending summer school for Caitlin involves behavioral issues caused by transitions.  Caitlin's behavior regresses when she takes long breaks from school (spring break, winter break, and summer break are the worst).

However, I'm moving in June.  The teacher is still giving me the recommendation, so hopefully I can take it to the new school district and get her enrolled there.  If it doesn't happen, there are other resources to explore in Pennsylvania, but it would be nice to get her acclimated to the new school environment.  I'll definitely be getting her private therapy after we move, and hopefully, somewhere to swim on a regular basis.  She loves swimming.  It's too late to get her into the camp this year, but one of the camps offers music therapy.  She showed excellent progress in a music therapy class in Michigan, so it would be great to give that another try. 

A few good things from the meeting: one, her teachers and principal just love her.  She might not be able to have a conversation, but she does comprehend things.  For another thing, she can type (she just seems unwilling to do so at home), and she likes it when people type messages for her to read while she's looking over their shoulder.  What I'd like to do is use a chat client (maybe develop one or find a free one) and type messages to her on her laptop, then see where that goes.  Finally, they expressed to my fiancee, who came with me to the meeting, that Caitlin got excited when talking about her.  

One more thing about Caitlin's school year that I brought up in the meeting was that I was happy to hear that Caitlin was instrumental in bringing another girl who was socially isolated out of her shell as the school year progress.  She hadn't been talking with anyone, didn't have friends, and didn't participate in class, but because of interaction with Caitlin, she slowly became more social.  Now she has friends and participates in class.  

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Good news regarding my daughter

I wanted to share two bits of good news about my daughter.

First, she hit a personal care milestone.  I do not want to go into what it is, to save her future embarrassment, but I was a proud parent, and my fiancee was excited and proud, as well.  It was something that either she learned on her own, or her occupational therapy led to it. 

The second bit of news can be more public.  Until recently, my daughter had three speaking volumes: shouting, talking loudly, and whispering.  I tried telling her, "lower your voice", and she did!  I asked her if somebody taught her that, and she said, "Mrs. Doyle."  That's her speech therapist at school.

These two milestones came at a time when I've been a bit down about not being able to reason with my child the way other parents can.  And before anyone chimes in with, "I can't reason with my neurotypical child," yes, you can--they at least understand you, even if they don't accept your logic, advice, or simple word.  

She did hit a milestone last week that I did not mention: she started using people's names in response to "hello" or "hi".  So instead of answering, "Hi, Caitlin!" when people greet her, she now answers with, for example, "Hi Daddy!"  This milestone gives me hope for a meaningful conversation with more time and therapy. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

I just want to have a conversation with my kid

To the parent whose kid asked, "Why?" to the point where you finally said, "Because!  Enough!  Shut up, already!": I just want to have a conversation with my kid.

To the parent whose child wanted to talk in the morning, who responded, "Not now, I'm busy,": I just want to have a conversation with my kid.

To the parent who had to deal with the tantrum, and complained to anyone who would listen: I just want to have a conversation with my kid.

If my kid asked me, "Why?" and she just kept asking, I'd answer until I ran out of reasons, then I'd go to Google for more.  If I ran out then, I would just give the honest answer, "I don't know."  If she asked "Why?" again, I'd just continue on with it.  Get silly.  Make her giggle.  If only I could have that conversation with my child.

If my child wanted to have a conversation with me at any time, I'd make time, not just because she's important to me, but because that would be the most important thing in the world at that moment...because I can't have a conversation with my child.

Your kid has tantrums?  Mine does, too, but sometimes she has meltdowns.  Sensory overload.  But that's not the point.  Even during your child's tantrum, you were talking with that child, reasoning with him or her, and I can't, because I can't have a conversation with my child.

She can communicate her needs, and we can make plans in our own simple way.  We sing songs, play silly games, and go places together (usually the store), but I cannot have a two-way, meaningful conversation with my kid.  I can't find out what's on her mind, what she wants to be when she grows up, what she thinks about art, what her thoughts are on abstract subjects.

It's heartbreaking when I think about how I could speak with all three nieces and my nephew at much earlier ages, and I still can't have a conversation with my ten-year-old.

I'm not asking for advice, for sympathy, or anything else.  I am just expressing my frustration and painting a picture for parents out there who don't understand what it's like.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Thoughts on Lies and Freedom of Speech

Today, out of frustration with lies that get spread all the time by people like Alex Jones, the conspiracy nut who brought you Infowars and Prison Planet, I said, "I think that if what you say is demonstrably false, you should not have the freedom to get on any broadcast medium and say it."

But there's danger in that thinking.  It seems like a good standard, not to have fraudulent speech out there, but the problem with having that standard is policing it.  The enforcement of the standard runs the danger of becoming political, and nobody should have the power to simply label something "false" and get rid of it.  There are people--politicians among them--who believe evolution is false, who deny that human beings contribute to climate change, who think that the idea that the universe is 13.7 billion years old is fantasy.  Do we want them in charge of policing what's true and what's false?

So...what's the answer?  Ignorance and lack of intellectual curiosity keep people like Alex Jones, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and the people at Fox News in business.  The only way to combat this problem is through education and passionate defense of the truth.  I named conservatives, and I'm not going to fall into the trap of false equivalency, because there are no examples of people on the left who have the propensity to lie who also have the financial backing and broadcast reach of the people I've named.  I don't want anyone spreading falsehoods, especially people who agree with me on most issues--and conservatives should feel the same way.  Why do you want people on your side of politics spreading lies?

It's not even about politics, though, not exclusively.  It's also about superstition, about pseudoscience, about stories made up to generate false sympathy.  People neglect to check facts, so they spread the lies made up to stir emotion and increase ratings or, in the case of the internet and social media, traffic to pages.  Religious organizations often make up stories about atheists trying to "censor" religious speech, when they are really fighting for separation of state and church.  Whether or not atheists are actually doing something (usually it has to do with an alleged war memorial), these organizations know that the stories will whip people into a frenzy fed by religion and patriotism, and will therefore generate revenue and public outcry.

One problem we face in an attempt to get rid of the lies spread on the Internet and broadcast media is the lack of will to have civil discourse.  When people have their worldviews challenged, they get upset, shut down, and tend to stop talking with people who challenge them.  I don't mind talking with people who disagree with me; I've done it quite a bit in my life, but when people start making personal attacks or demonize my positions, I will block them...and that's a problem, because discourse is now closed, and neither of us will have the opportunity to educate the other.  My only defense is stress reduction; I don't need the negativity in my life.  I won't just block someone because they disagree with me; they have to be real jerks about it, but it's unfortunate that we can't keep the dialogue open and be civil.  I will also block people when they spread misinformation, have me demonstrate to them that their information is false, and double down on that misinformation.  It just doesn't seem worthwhile to argue with the willfully ignorant...but again, they never have the opportunity to be educated when they're isolated into an echo chamber.

Government regulation certainly isn't the answer, due to the danger of politicizing information, but what about the market?  The only way the market can regulate speech in a way that falsehoods aren't spread is if the demand is reduced, and the only way to reduce that demand is through education...but that's another problem.  Education itself is politicized information.  Education standards aren't made by objective bodies; they're made by politicians.  Critical thinking is not a priority in education.  Science and reasoning aren't stressed enough by education standards in all places.  Students aren't taught to think for themselves; they learn to memorize facts and do busy work.  It's not conducive to combating ignorance.  When people are taught to absorb and accept as truth the information they're fed, they are prime customers for people in the business of spreading misinformation.

Nobody said the preservation of freedom of speech (and other protections guaranteed by the Constitution) would be easy.  It would be nice to live in a world where lies weren't broadcast far and wide, and someone was able to regulate the lies properly, but there's too much danger of censorship of reality when we put the regulation in the hands of the wrong people...and yet, the education that we must provide to people in order for them to have the tools to combat misinformation must either come from a source that is not politicized, or the politicians we elect must be as objective as possible when making the education standards.  The latter simply doesn't seem possible with today's toxic political division.

I welcome any thoughts on this issue.

Friday, April 18, 2014

A refutation of claims made about open and closed relationships

In a Facebook group recently, I became involved in a thread where someone made several claims about open and closed relationships, and, being in a closed (monogamous) relationship, I felt the need to address them, because the claims contained several unfounded characterizations of monogamy that do not apply to my relationship, or that of any healthy monogamous relationship I know.  I am just going to go through these claims one by one, and I'll address them directly.

In the 21st century, all relationships should be open.
This claim assumes that monogamy is obsolete.  This assumption ignores the implications of open relationships, and how monogamy reduces some of the risks involved.  While I am not saying the open relationships should not exist, anyone engaging in one should understand that having an open relationship with a partner opens one up to the following:

  • Sexually transmitted diseases (risks reduced through use of condoms and careful screening of partners).  This is true of cheating, though, too, so you run the risk in your monogamous relationship.  The key here is to be honest and responsible. 
  • Unwanted pregnancy with a person with whom you are not in a committed relationship, which opens up all kinds of legal and financial trouble (reduced by the use of contraception, tubal ligation, or vasectomy, but only the latter two are guaranteed).
  • Jealousy (we will get to that in a moment, because there is a claim about jealousy later)
  • Awkward living arrangements, if the relationship dynamic changes to a new partner getting more attention
On to the next claim:

The idea that you own the body of your mate is outdated.

Who said that monogamy is about ownership of your mate's body?  This claim is a caricature of modern monogamous relationships.  People choose to be together and choose to eschew other suitors.  Many factors contribute to this choice.  In the case of me and my fiancee, it's about finding everything we wanted in each other, and finding what was missing from other relationships.  It's not about jealously protecting my prize; it's about both of us wanting to be together, exclusively with each other, because it makes sense in light of where we are in our lives and how out treatment of and feelings for each other compare to our interactions with past partners.

The concept that you are too jealous to handle the pressure of another human being giving some affection to your beloved is also detrimental to relationships.

Again, we have a caricature of monogamous relationships, this time involving jealousy.  We don't want other people trying to give affection that we can adequately provide for each other.  There's no reason to involve other people, because we fulfill each other's needs more than adequately, and advances from people who think we should be open to them only serve to annoy us both.

The jealousy claim was followed by an assumption that everyone in the thread had at least one relationship destroyed by jealousy.  That's a huge assumption, and it serves only to demonize monogamy as something in which only jealous, possessive people engage.  My parents were monogamous, as were several of my relatives.  Not everyone had a perfect relationship, but I can point to a few where there was never even a consideration of stepping outside of the relationship, not because of jealousy, not because of possessiveness, but because they loved each other and had no desire to be with anyone else.  They were compliments to each other.   In the case of my parents, they were together for fifty-three years, until my dad died.  I don't remember them arguing once in my forty years of life, and nobody else can, either.  I know that's one anecdotal example, but it demonstrates that the possibility of monogamy without jealousy or possessiveness exists, even if it's only in one couple.  Couples have problems.  That's why over 50% of marriages end in divorce.  But to say monogamy never works is to ignore the percentage of marriages that do not end in divorce, even if one does not take my word on the relationship of my parents.

Jealousy is lack of confidence in yourself.

I'm not so sure.  Jealousy can arise from insecurity, certainly, but could it not also be a natural reaction?  An evolutionary adaptation that made it more likely that other potential mates were scared off?  I'm not condoning jealousy and possessiveness, but it seems to me that it could be primal and instinctive to be jealous, at least initially.

Closed relationships are like religion: both are philosophies based on a faulty premise and unsound logic.

Religion is based on faith, which is intangible and arbitrary.  Monogamy is based on tangible emotion and, in the case of me and my fiancee, myriad reasons that are quite logical.  The chemistry (release of oxytocin) needs to be there, I'm certain, but if we didn't laugh easily together, weren't sexually compatible, weren't affectionate, didn't have so many things in common, didn't have shared experiences with parenting kids on the autism spectrum, didn't have common goals and dreams, we wouldn't be together.  We can name so many reasons and side benefits to us being together, it's insulting for someone to come along and compare the reasons we're together and exclude others as potential partners to something faith-based.  This judgment is condescending and wildly inaccurate.

 You love a person so much you demand they never love anyone else. 

We love each other so much that we don't need anyone else, and other people trying to nudge their way in annoys us to no end.

Closed relationships actually come from religious traditions.

If this claim were true, then no primates would engage in monogamy.  The truth is that our primate cousins engage in monogamy 20%-30% of the time, compared to 3% in other species.  If the claim were true, monogamy would not appear in every culture throughout history, at least to some degree (the ancient Greeks were a notable exception).  If the claim were true, more people would engage in polyamory among nonreligious people, and there are no numbers to substantiate that claim.

Claim: Open relationships/polyamory make you feel uncomfortable because you know that I am right and it makes you feel emasculated.  The same way religious people react when you demand proof of god. I demand proof that holding back your partner emotionally and sexually is good or healthy for the relationship and the people in it. 

The person making the case for polyamory, who claims that monogamy is like religion, uses a tactic here that religious people use: instead of making the case for his way of thinking, he places the burden of proof on the people he condemns.  If he were arguing logically and making a good case, he would demonstrate how people who engage in polyamory and open relationships live healthier, happier lives.  Also, it's common for religious apologists to argue that deep down, you know they're right; deep down, you really believe in their god--you're just afraid or embarrassed to admit it.

I don't believe he is correct, so it doesn't do a thing to my masculinity.  I know monogamy works for me and my fiancee, and I don't want anyone else.  Neither does she.  Also, I'm not holding my partner back; I'm loving her, being happy with her, making her feel good, treating her right, and giving her the best sex of her life.  She doesn't want to go to anyone else; I'm giving her everything she wants and needs.

If [polyamory] is natural, it should probably be more common and accepted by society at large.

The argument from nature is a logical fallacy.  Many things occur in nature; that doesn't necessarily mean they're better for a species.  Psychosis, sociopathy, mental disorders, birth defects, genetic disorders and a great many other things occur in nature; it doesn't mean they're common or that they ought to be more widespread.  I'm not trying to make polyamory or open relationships out to be inherently bad, but I think the judgment that they are inherently good, logical, and should be more widespread and accepted is something one cannot base on the fact that it occurs naturally.  People aren't going to adopt a new relationship dynamic because of what's right for 5%-6% of the population.

I think I made a pretty decent case for exactly why closed relationships are emotionally traumatic and just the result of needy people clinging to each other's neediness.

Actually, no; he made a case (and poorly, at that) for monogamy being based on jealousy and possessiveness, not on neediness.  This claim is new.  The idea that closed relationships are emotionally traumatic is just a claim; there are no numbers or even anecdotes to back it up, and the neediness argument is just an example of him demonizing what he thinks isn't natural or moral.  I often say to my fiancee: I would not die without you, but with you, I live better.  I would still smile and laugh a bit without you, but with you, I laugh harder and more often.  I would not be depressed without you, but with you, I am truly happy.  I could go on with example after example of how she makes my life better.  I don't need her to live, but she makes life so much better, I want very badly to have her in mine.

I don't hate closed relationships.  I made it very clear I see them as based on a faulty premise and based on emotional desires instead of logic.

He doesn't hate closed relationships, but he demonizes them at will and insults people who engage in them as illogical, jealous, possessive, needy, and just like religious people.  What this statement sounds like to me is:

  • I'm not racist, but...
  • I'm not homophobic, but...
  • I don't hate women, but...
You get the picture.  I'm not saying he's a racist, homophobe, or misogynist, but he certainly does look down his nose at monogamy.

I don't hate closed relationships emotionally.  You guys hate me emotionally because I scare you.  Inside, deep down, you know I am right.

I pointed out already that the "deep down, you know I am right" claim is not at all different from the religious apologist claiming, "Deep down, you really believe in my god."   I've also heard the argument that I'm scared to believe in whatever god the apologist is trying to sell (usually the Christian version).  I don't hate people with difference of opinion.  I don't demonize or condemn polyamory or open relationships.  They are just nor my thing.  Having my choice demonized and condemned in a condescending way is unwelcome and unappreciated.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Monetizing my site: Amazon Instant Video

In an attempt to support my blogging habit and make it profitable to write, I have added a few ads to my sites.  I have found that several online stores have affiliate programs that allow you to place advertisements on your site, and if your readers use the ads you've posted, you get commission from the sale, or a flat rate for certain promotions.

I won't put ads from just anyone on my site, which is why I'm considering dropping the AdSense ads.  In any case, I became an affiliate of today, and used their Instant Video banner.  I use this product myself, and I have found that they have most videos either available for free streaming or rental, whether it's a movie or a television show.  They seem to have more variety than other streaming sites I've tried, so I dropped others and paid for the Amazon Prime membership.

I strongly recommend their service if you really love watching movies or catching up on seasons of television shows you enjoy.

I guess I won't be eating Jelly Belly jelly beans great loss

I'll admit it: I love Jelly Belly jelly beans.  However, since the chairman, Herman G. Rowland, Sr., seems to think that not everyone deserves equal rights, I will no longer consume them.  They're really empty calories anyway, and it's a sugary snack that is only bad for me--and everyone else.

What I don't understand is why people give time and energy to depriving people of rights and making life harder for people who are doing nothing to hurt them.  I don't care what your idea of "sin" might be; that's your belief, your matter of private conscience, and you are malicious for enforcing your beliefs on the rest of society.  Your legislation of sin does nothing to improve the quality of life for anyone, include you.  You're only doing it to harm other people.  Oh, you think you're saving them from a life of sin and eternal damnation, but the only life we know we have is the one you're making miserable for other people, and all over a faith-based belief in what you think a mythical deity wants from you.

LGBT people being who they are and loving whom they love does nothing to harm anyone.  What happens between consenting adults in relationships or in the bedroom is neither your business, nor should you be spending energy and money on this sort of cause.  You could feeding starving people.  You could be investing in the economy.  You could be doing something positive with that money, but you choose to be a malicious jerk.

Transgender people have it hard enough.  They have to struggle and come to terms with their gender identity in a society that largely does not accept them for who they are.  Acting to make it more difficult makes you a bully and a coward, because you are pushing people to conform to your idea of what is "normal", while trying to keep things you fear and don't understand out of your view.

Face your fears.  Stop pushing people around.  Use your money to achieve positive goals.  Do things that actually help.  Make the world a better place.  Stop picking on people who aren't causing you any harm and wish you no ill will.

Selfishness should not be government policy

A disturbing trend seems to be pervasive in the United States.  Local government after local government falls prey to the economic religion of the unregulated market.  This philosophy, without evidence or working model, asserts that the market always displays more efficiency than the government.  The truth behind the privatization of government services ultimately manifests as selfishness, not efficiency.  The replacements for the government services do not represent the best services the free market can offer; it's not even representative of free market capitalism.  The private entities represent selfish capitalists parasitically draining funds from communities to serve themselves.  The citizens of the Unites States must stop this trend for three important reasons.

First, low-paid workers with no benefits replace workers earning a living wage, making the savings to the communities null and void. I've written about school transportation and private prisons in the past, but the same principle rings true for all services.  Waste management companies have largely taken over in every community.  Most utilities belong to private entities.  Some communities have even privatized fire departments.  In all cases, workers who were solidly in the middle class were either fired, then rehired with less income and no benefits, or were replaced completely by new workers, who were willing to take the jobs at the lower wage.  People who could afford to both live and work in the communities suddenly had no income or less disposable income.  Either way, they could do less to support local businesses, such as convenience stores, restaurants, grocery stores, and various specialty shops.  They could afford to do fewer recreational activities.  In short, money that the community paid for services that used to come back in the form of local consumer spending now goes out of the community, which brings me to my next point.

Shareholders and executives not living in the communities receive the greatest share of taxpayer money for the services. Where the workers, who are more numerous, and therefore more able to support local businesses out of sheer quantity of goods and services they require and desire, were receiving the majority of the taxpayer dollars paid for services, people who have no interest in the communities where they are making their money now receive the largest portion of the money taxpayers pay for the private contracts.  Communities are shooting themselves in the foot with these contracts, because they are creating a parasitic drain on taxpayer dollars, rather than recovering some of the money through local consumer spending.  People collecting dividend checks and executive salaries in other states--or, as the case may be, other countries--will be spending the communities' tax money elsewhere, and since there are fewer of these people than there are workers, the economy overall suffers, because the disposable income is in the hands of fewer individuals.

Finally, government should act selflessly for the people, not as a conduit for selfish people to set themselves up as community parasites.  What these privatization policies have done is effectively create a welfare system for the wealthy, or at least the well-to-do.  It's not the average consumer who has a stock portfolio, unless it's part of a retirement fund they can't touch without penalties or severe restrictions until they retire.  Local governments should, in the interest of their local economies, employ as many workers at a living wage as they can with the money they've budgeted for services they need anyway.  The only time a private entity should ever be employed by a community should be to offer a temporary service.  Communities always need utilities, police, fire departments, waste management, schools, school transportation, and water treatment, to list a few, and these services should employ living-wage workers who are likely to live and spend in the community, supporting local businesses, and therefore receiving back in property tax at least some of the money they've spent on the services in the first place.

Citizens of the United States must become actively involved in the future of their local communities, putting a stop to this trend of parasitic selfishness.  It extends into higher levels of government, but all politics begin locally.  Politicians begin their careers in local government, and we citizens should only elect people who care about the citizens, not about supplying a stable income for wealthy friends or campaign supporters.  I encourage people who care about the futures of their communities to run for local office and help reverse this trend, or support people who are willing to represent us in this fight.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Complications of delaying divorce

My divorce becomes final on May 14th.  It should have happened a few years ago, but nothing can change what's done; it's simply important that we move forward.   However, I would like to point out one complication that may arise from delaying a divorce too long.   Reasons exist, and I don't want to go into them; the important thing to learn from my experience is whatever you do, don't delay.  Get it done.

After we decided to break up, my ex-wife ended up getting together with another man.  She had two sons by him.  Because the way states write family law, courts tend to consider them a "product of the marriage", even though there's no way I could have fathered them, and their mother freely admits they're not mine.  The separation agreement says they aren't mine, and my ex is not asking for support for her sons.  However, the court is now asking for DNA evidence that the sons aren't mine.

Say what?

Let me repeat it, because it bears repeating: my ex is not asking for any support, and the separation agreement clearly states that the boys are not mine, but the court wants DNA evidence to prove it. 

So...who pays for the test?  It's going to be up to me.  I had no part in the production or the raising of these children, and they live with their mother and father, but I am going to have to pay for a DNA test to prove the boys aren't mine.  

What's the reasoning here?  It makes no sense to me.  

In any case, I'm doing it and getting it over with so we can follow through with the dissolution on May 14th, but the idea of it has me boiling.  

If I had my head together when she asked for the divorce, I could have ended things with my ex in court before she had the first boy, so heed my advice: do whatever you have to do to make your divorce happen quickly.  Don't get caught up in "product of the marriage" nonsense--you could actually get stuck paying for support for children who aren't yours.  Ohio seems to care about paternity, but not all states are the same--some will not care who the father is, as long as the husband has an income.  

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

What matters most in life

As I experience the pain of another kidney stone passing, I reflect on what's important in life.

People think we're special.  We're miracles.  That some entity created us special and cares about what we do.

This pain makes me think otherwise.  Even if I had not examined the sources of the myths regarding this entity--and other, similar entities--I would call into question the notion that a being, allegedly perfect, had intelligently designed us with such flaws as creation of painful kidney stones.

Then there's children with cancer, parasites that devastate whole populations, birth defects and congenital conditions that debilitate, and neurological conditions that last a lifetime and affect quality of life adversely, or at least making intensive therapy necessary.

I don't blame the entity, because I don't believe it exists.  I don't blame some man and woman who allegedly lived in a garden paradise and ate from some magical tree.  I don't blame deities or the "sins" of man--I only recognize life as the struggle it is.  Life is full of pain and work, and you'll experience plenty of both before you die.

But then there's happiness.  There's love.  There's silliness. There's beauty for all senses to experience.  These are the important things in life, and these are the things that make bearable to live, that make it desirable to live.  We persevere because even though life is pain, struggle, anxiety, and all sorts of negative things, it's also the things that make us smile, laugh, tear up with emotion, and feel needed, wanted, and important to at least one or a handful of other people.  

I live for these things.  I live for the love of the woman in my life, my child's laughter, my mom's unconditional love for me, her adopted son.  I live for the friends who value my opinion and my company.  I live for the people I barely know who compliment me on my relationship and my writing.  

So I sit here in pain, smiling. 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Why it bothers me to say I'm an ally

I had a thought yesterday that's been nagging at me.  I've been called a "straight ally" before, and I've called myself the same, but yesterday, I thought it sounded like I'm in some other class of people, and I don't have a stake in the fight for civil rights for people with sexual orientations and gender identities different from mine.

I have friends in my life who don't have the same rights I do.  I do have a stake in this fight, because the fight for civil rights involves the happiness and well-being of my friends.  If they have to go through hardships and discrimination, the resulting turmoil affects me, too, because I care about them.  I care what happens to them, and when they can't do the same things I can because some people believe that the way they love is a "sin", it saddens and angers me.

Let's say someone I've known for ten years has a same-sex partner who gets in a tragic accident.  That partner ends up on life support, and the friend of mine can't make the decision to pull the plug because he's not the spouse, and he hasn't jumped through the legal hoops necessary to be in a position to make the decision.  That's not fair at all--especially if family comes in and makes a decision contrary to the wishes of my friend.

We don't have to go to extreme examples.  There are tax benefits to marriage.  There are legal benefits.  Credit benefits.  A person better versed in all of the rights one can't have because one cannot get married can give a large list, I'm sure (I've heard it's around 250 items long), but the point is that these are things people can't do because other people--people who aren't affected by the relationships at all--believe that legislating what they believe to be a "sin" is appropriate.

Anyway, call me an "ally" or whatever, if it suits a purpose, because not everyone who has had their rights denied is a personal friend, of course, but I'm on their side anyway.  However, I'm more than that.  I do have friends who are being denied the rights I enjoy, and, as a friend, I want to see them treated equally under the law.

How do you know when it's love?

I didn't think that I would find love in my life.  I thought I'd found an approximation of it when I got married the first time, but hindsight has taught me that it was more a relationship of convenience, and less something based in love.  

So what is love?  How do I know I've found it?

Here's what the dictionary says about it:


  [luhv]  Show IPA
a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person.
a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child, or friend.
sexual passion or desire.

The dictionary has these definitions separate, but I think they all fit together.  When you have a tender, passionate affection for another person, when you have a warm personal attachment, and when you have sexual passion and desire for an individual, you've found love.

How do we tell love from strong infatuation, though?  A person could feel these things, but not really be in love; it might just be a strong, fleeting, desire that feels like attachment.

Here's how I recognized my current relationship for what it is:

  • I was happier than I'd ever felt in my life.  Again, could be a sign of infatuation, but I'd never felt happier.
  • I could list reasons I felt the way I did, rather than describing a general, nebulous feeling that  couldn't be defined. 
  • Nothing was awkward.  Not our conversation, not our first kiss, not the first time we had sex, nothing.
  • Her passions interested me, whether or not I shared them completely.
  • The "chemistry" was there.  Looking into her eyes triggered deep emotion.
  • I went out of my way to make time to talk to her and see her.  I did everything I could to make sure I kept getting together with her, and she did the same with me.  More so, even, because she drives to my place a lot more often (it just makes sense for us right now).
  • We were incredibly sexually compatible.
  • We were both contributing to the relationship in lots of different ways, and the efforts we made didn't feel like effort at all, even when we were making sacrifices to see each other and do things for each other.  
  • She's constantly on my mind.  Still, six months later, my every decision involves thoughts of her.  
I define what we have as love.  If love can't truly be defined, let's call it incredible compatibility, resulting in intense pleasure and prolonged happiness.

Friday, April 4, 2014

How to stop marijuana from being a gateway drug

The anti-drug campaigns tell us that marijuana is a gateway to other drugs.  This argument sometimes even takes the form of a slippery slope fallacy, asserting that marijuana consumption inevitably leads to consumption of other, "harder" drugs.  Plenty of people will argue that the majority of marijuana users will stick to marijuana, never using other drugs, but there's an effective way to reduce the chances of drug users ever having such a gateway.

Legalize it!

The main reason marijuana users have access to other drugs now involves the nature of the drug trade.  Dealers will sell what makes them profit (not all, but many), so they will offer other drugs, such as LSD, ecstasy, heroin, cocaine, or meth.  As such, those who are willing to experiment with other drugs will have the access to them.  If legalized, marijuana will be sold in state stores, dispensaries, and possibly grown at home, depending on how the laws for it are written.  Legal outlets will not risk their business by offering drugs that remain illegal.  Also, the chances that marijuana will be laced with other drugs (it is sometimes laced with cocaine or formaldehyde) become vastly reduced.

Legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes, as Colorado and Washington have done, creates a revenue stream for the state, but it also stops the practice of making criminals out of non-violent drug users.  Furthermore, it takes away an income source for opportunistic criminal enterprises.

It would be interesting to study how much reduction in use of harder drugs takes place in Colorado and Washington over time.

Life as it stands right now

In six days, my current relationship will be six months old, and it's going strong.

Anyone who has followed this blog from the beginning knows I was married, but I haven't really talked about the end of that marriage and what's happened since.  I could write about what happened between the time I met my fiancee back to the time my ex decided she wanted a divorce, but it's in the past, it's not going to change anything, and things are going so well right now, I don't want to dredge up the negativity.  To summarize briefly, we had terrible marriage counseling, I immersed myself in gaming, had a lot of deaths among friends and family, let things get a bit out of hand, finally regained control of my senses and finances, and figured out that I was better off without her.  It was just me and my daughter for awhile, then I moved back to Ohio from Michigan, near my mom.

     A few months after I moved, I met Jeanie in a mingling group on Facebook, and we found love.  We fell quickly and deeply, and it continues to grow stronger.  There are so many reasons we're together, but one of the points of compatibility is that she has a son on the autism spectrum.  He has Aspbergers.  Knowing the signs of autism, I could tell when I met him, but if people don't know, they just think he's a goofy, quirky, funny kid.

    Anyway, it's awesome enough that Jeanie and I get along the way we do; we have been told we inspire people to find true love, and we absolutely enjoy each other's company.  We both agree that we've never been happier.  I've never laughed more or harder, never had more affection or passion, never had so many reasons to love someone as I do Jeanie.  But the fact that her son and I hit it off is a huge bonus.

     I've taken him to the store with me a few times and once to get a haircut, and we've gotten to talk and laugh together.  He embraced me on the first visit, and he enjoys sharing jokes with me.  I helped him with his computer, as well, and he wants me to teach him programming.  Jeanie says it is not each for her son to get attached to strange men, but it happened pretty quickly with me, and I love the kid.

    My own daughter hit it off with Jeanie, though she does have problems with breaks in her routine, and we've had some issues when Jeanie was staying at my place the first few times.  When we went to Pennsylvania before that, she loved Jeanie right away, and got along with her very well.  Now she looks forward to the visits from Jeanie and her son, and asks when they're going to be over.  The aids at her school tell me that she talks about them all the time, excitedly.  Caitlin really wants to move to Pennsylvania, and she said it the first time we were there.

      Having a woman in my life who understands the autism spectrum and is such a great advocate for her own children is a huge benefit to our relationship.  It's not why we're together, but it sure makes life easier.  Jeanie has been great about looking into autism resources in Pennsylvania for Caitlin already.

     Jeanie has a daughter, as well, whom I've met, but I've not had much opportunity to interact.  She's a brilliant girl, into art and language, and I think we'll be fine.  It's hard to relate to people when you're really smart, so having someone else who is on her level around the house will be a welcome change, I'm sure.  Eventually.

     Anyway, I'm head-over-heels, crazy in love, and I've been riding that emotional high for almost six months now.  It's been wonderful.  It's done wonders for my outlook on life.  She makes me a better person.